For a lesson in government efficiency and collaboration, every communityin the Mahoning Valley should look at Tallmadge.
While local communities, kicking and screaming, have accepted some government consolidation because dire finances created an absolute need, Tallmadge willingly participated even before The Great Recession. Here are the results:
l The city started this year with a $6.4 million unencumbered balance. That's up from $4.7 million in 2012.
l The city of 17,500 had a record income tax collection in 2013. The $9.6 million exceeded the 2012 record by almost $1 million.
l A city administrator has been invited to give a presentation to a March meeting of the American Planning Association in Atlanta.
l Gov. John Kasich's office has been citing Tallmadge in interviews and reports.
The Summit County city's success stems from many actions that we have advocated here but that only a few local communities have embraced. They include merging its dispatch system with another community, turning its building department duties over to the county and replacing its tax collection function with the Regional Income Tax Agency.
The result is saving about $1 million a year and setting tax collection records.
''We were doing collaborations even before the recession hit,'' Mayor David Kline told the Akron Beacon Journal. ''We were ahead of the curve.''
Tallmadge's leaders routinely engage with a group of northeast Ohio mayors and city managers who find ways to collaborate.
In Trumbull and Mahoning counties, communities frequently complain about Ohio eliminating the estate tax and reducing the local government fund. They tend to cut services and ask taxpayers for more money.
In Tallmadge, which stands to lose all of its $500,000 per year in estate tax income, no problem. In Tallmadge, which stands to lose half of its $1 million a year in local government fund revenue, no problem.
The Mahoning Valley is not void of success stories. Niles closed its jail and created a prisoner transport with Weathersfield to take inmates to the Trumbull County Jail. Liberty and Newton Falls ended emergency dispatching in favor of the county center.
But when the Trumbull County Board of Health tried to merge with Warren's Health Department, the idea went nowhere. When the city of Warren was advised to hire the Regional Income Tax Agency, the idea was met with formidable resistance. And when the notion of at least housing the Warren and Trumbull County building departments in the same location was mentioned, nothing materialized.
It's not just Warren. When a group of county fire chiefs met to plan a consolidation, the effort failed. School districts have ignored calls to share transportation duties. School districts have adamantly opposed a proposal to consolidate administrative functions.
Throughout the area, when it comes to collaboration, consolidation and shared services, there are more failure stories than success stories.