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Long-Term Fixes Ahead? Let's Hope So

TPS, Lucas County, Toledo Talk Big Picture
Photo by: Chris Myers

Now that Toledo Public Schools is the latest governmental unit to avoid budgetary catastrophe with a short-term financial fix, the board of education, Lucas County Commissioners, and the Bell administration all are talking long-term, lasting change. There needs to be less talk and more action.

While the discussions are independent of each other and are focused on looking inward at processes, procedures, and structure, perhaps our local leaders should be looking outward as well-- to the commonalities of their situations and the co-dependence of some logical, common-sense solutions.

The TPS board will hire a new superintendent within days and is seeking a blue-ribbon committee to examine the way it does business. County commissioners likely will settle on a structural framework for examining a change to a charter government. Mayor Mike Bell's transition team and a CSI forensic financial unit have examined the city's operations and made recommendations that are quietly being examined and implemented.

All three entities can show taxpayers and voters they mean business about substantive change by first discussing the dilemmas and problems they all share in common--  starting with the high cost of employee health care, expensive informational infrastructure, and duplicative services.

It's been said before and bears repeating-- all three entities could save MILLIONS by forming one big, public employee health care pool.

TPS, Lucas County, and Toledo all are self-funded on the health insurance front. By combining their resources into a health care collective, they increase their buying power with a plan provider AND a third-party benefits administrator. We're talking 10,000 employees and their families.

At a time when all three are looking for budget savings and dealing with unions who don't want to give back much or pay more for health care, this is the one way to meet the goals of cost containment, regional cooperation, avoiding large layoffs, and avoiding tax increases.

Each governmental unit has taken care of its short-term financial problems in 2010, but faces many of the same situations and dilemmas in 2011. Why repeat the same conversations, akin to beating your head against the wall repeatedly?

Lucas County already uses a non-profit benefits administrator called the Health Care Payer's Coalition-- and even provides downtown office space to the organization. There would be no startup costs and little expense in expanding its efforts.

We've all heard the term "10,000 pound gorilla." Now picture the 10,000-member behemoth that could walk into the offices of Aetna, Paramount, and/or Medical Mutual of Ohio to demand a better deal.

There's strength-- and savings-- in numbers. Start with health care, then move on to other joint operations in information technology, building inspections, economic development-- even lawn mowing.

It's already been shown that three different levels of government cut the grass on the Civic Center Mall.

It's time to quit talking about change-- and show us you're willing to do it. Instead of asking for more, show US the money for a change-- by saving it through substantive change.