CBIA speaker touts regionalization savings

Rocky Hill - Local governments in Connecticut could save millions of dollars annually by creating partnerships to share costs in areas such as emergency dispatch services, health services and public pensions, a leading policy analyst said Friday.

Yolanda Kodrzycki, director of the New England Public Policy Center at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, told a gathering of about 300 business people at the Sheraton Hartford South Hotel that savings are not realized across the board through local government collaborations. But in areas where consolidation makes sense, she told members of the Connecticut Business & Industry Association who were gathered for a half-day Connecticut Economic Outlook Conference, potential savings could be considerable.

"Connecticut is a good target for consolidation because many of the services provided are quite fragmented," Kodrzycki said.

Though there are 169 towns and cities in Connecticut, various water, sewer and fire districts and boroughs bring up the total number of government entities to 649. This averages out to 134 local governments for every 1,000 square miles - more than five times the national average.

"I think there is a strong case for regionalizing some services," Kodrzycki said. "(But) this is going to be very hard. It won't be accomplished quickly."

Kodrzycki, who said she had testified before a legislative committee in Hartford earlier in the week about government consolidation, acknowledged that objections to combining services have roots in ideology. Some opponents of consolidation worry about services being moved further away from the local level, she said.

But with local governments nationwide having been forced to pare their workforces by nearly 100,000 over the past five years, Kodrzycki said many towns inevitably will be forced to consider partnerships with other municipalities to cut costs.

Kodrzycki said her analysis shows that towns could save 50 percent to 60 percent on the cost of emergency-dispatch services through regional partnerships. She added that combining health services can result in savings of at least 13 percent, while pension administration costs can come down at least 14 percent.

l.howard@theday.com

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