There are a number of regional organizations that are arms of the Vermont State government that pass their costs along to the Towns they serve. Locally these are the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission, Chittenden Solid Waste District, Green Mountain Transit, Champlain Water District and Chittenden County itself and likely others. While not all of these serve Westford and only some rural Essex residents have access to Town water, they all pass their costs on without much oversight from the Towns they serve. No one looks at potential efficiency improvements that could be realized if these regional entities were required to share common functions. Each of these entities has a payroll department, each has an IT department, each has a communications department. The list goes on.
My intent is to force periodic reviews of these entities to find efficiencies that could be gained by sharing their back-office functions. I’ve asked a number of these entities whether they have considered anything like this and every one of them says they are so unique that they need their own support staff. I disagree. I believe that if they were forced to try, they could come up with many efficiency improvements that would reduce the costs they pass on those they serve.
Another big issue is that Counties in Vermont have complete autonomy with regard to setting County budgets with little to no public input and certainly no public vote. Town Selectboards don’t even get a vote. All Selectboards get is a bill that is required to be passed directly to Town taxpayers. I will push to require County budgets to go through approval by the Towns and Cities of the County. There needs to be some accountability for County budgets.
I will also press to move toward locally initiated rather than State mandated regionalization. Towns should be able to establish the regional entities they need rather than having regionalization forced by the State. Along with this, any costs associated with regionalization should be controlled locally instead of being a mandated cost shift from the State and any such cost shifts from the State should be required to go through a fiscal impact assessment with an additional focus on equity and impact to our most vulnerable populations.