Beware the bureaucracy

Published 8:51 am Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Bureaucrats at every level of government are quick to be dismissive of efforts to consolidate services and save taxpayers money.

For good reason.

Consolidation, done correctly, results in fewer bureaucrats. Discounting the potential savings from consolidation is an effort at self-preservation by those whose functions would be consolidated.

Elected officials must be aware of this reality as they undertake the critically important job of streamlining government services.

Isle of Wight County citizens got a lesson Monday night in the power of entrenched bureaucracy when a proposed county schools budget for fiscal 2011 ignored county supervisors’ calls for shared services between the school division and county government.

Supervisor Stan Clark, to his credit, called out the School Board chairman in a joint meeting of the two boards Monday night. The School Board’s David Goodrich, in defending Superintendent Michael McPherson’s proposed budget, questioned the potential cost savings of consolidation.

Incredibly, the School Board, instead of eliminating administrative jobs by cooperating more closely with county government, has proposed shutting down Windsor Middle School and disrupting students as a budget-cutting strategy.

In Franklin and Southampton County, bureaucrats are questioning the potential cost savings of combining the two localities’ Departments of Social Services.

The plan is to appoint a study panel to explore the feasibility of consolidation.

Taxpayers can only hope that the panel is not packed with bureaucrats. They perform a lot of important services for the citizenry — and deserve a lot of credit for their efforts — but objective arbiters of the taxpayers’ best interest they are not.