State Auditor Dave Yost is on a mission to cut the fat out of state and local governments.
His goal is to “skinny down” the government by using several methods, including performance audits and streamlining.
“How can we shorten the process and save money? How do we do things smarter and save money?” he asked during a recent radio taping of Town Hall Ohio. “The private sector has done (performance audits) for the last several years. Your listeners have learned how to run their farm operations efficiently … we need to do that for the government in Ohio at the state and local (levels).”
Performance audits are voluntary except for school districts or departments that the state legislature determines need to be more closely examined. This year the auditor’s office has been doing performance audits of the Ohio Department of Education, Ohio Department of Transportation and Department of Job and Family Services, as required under Senate Bill 4.
The performance audits collect data such as how companies or groups are doing business and what their staffing levels are in comparison with a comparable agency. Often the audits find that the group is “out of line with peer agencies and needs to make adjustments,” he said.
Yost said the auditor’s office has done hundreds of performance audits with significant cost savings. For example he said a performance audit was done on the transportation routing of buses for the city of Youngstown’s fiscally struggling schools. The audit found that the city school district could save more than $6.3 million, including $296,000 in fuel and overtime costs by using GPS software to route buses.
“An investment of 23-1 is a great deal and that return isn’t a one-time savings. Typically that savings is year after year,” he said noting that agencies that can pay for the cost of the audit a year after they’ve implement savings changes. Yost guarantees that if agencies don’t save enough money to pay for the audit, then it’s free. Details of the initiative are outlined at skinnyohio.org.
Another area the auditor’s office has been looking at is merging government agencies at the state and local level to save money.
“Lots of stuff that governments do could be consolidated but not every consolidation or shared services is a good one. There need to be similarities between delivery channels, the people you are serving and the way you are serving them,” he said. “If they don’t kind of meet up well, share services could be more inefficient.”
Yost said that while he loves township governments, he said there are places in Ohio that could have two or three townships merge together with one set of trustees to save “a significant chunk of money.” There are 1,308 townships in Ohio and one-third have less than 1,500 people. The same is true for villages with one-third of the 691 villages with fewer than 500 people.
“As we enter into a period of very limited resources, we need to look at everything,” he said.
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