The decision by Amherst and the Municipality of Cumberland to hire a consultant to study combining two finance departments into one unit is another solid step forward
The decision by Amherst and the Municipality of Cumberland to hire a consultant to study combining two finance departments into one unit is another solid step toward increased service sharing in our mind and we can only hope it’s just the first of other areas that are brought together to create more efficient municipal governance in Cumberland County.
In fact, now that the town and the county have shown they can work together – after many years of disagreeing – we can only hope, if not expect, the two municipal units to reach out to Oxford, Parrsboro and Springhill to determine if there are ways those three smaller towns can be brought into the mix.
In announcing the decision to hire a consultant to study the cost, benefits and potential design of a combined finance department, Amherst CAO Greg Herrett said this is not about amalgamation or annexation. Instead, it’s a continuation of the agreement the town and county entered into earlier this year to look for ways to become more efficient, reduce the duplication of services and in the long run save a few dollars for their taxpayers.
Time and time again we have talked about the need for a closer look at municipal co-operation. It may not result in amalgamation into one or more municipalities, but it should bring about an understanding that the status quo is no longer acceptable.
It is good to know both municipal units are moving forward while reassuring their employees that their jobs are not at risk. Any changes will be brought in over time and jobs reduced through attrition.
Herrett warned that any potential cost savings could be several years into the future. In fact, it’s going to cost up to $100,000 to conduct the study and put the systems in place to make sharing a reality – not to mention bringing all the financial information under one system and training staff on its use.
We should expect overnight results, but should be confident that another positive step has been taken. Saying that, if the consultant is able to show that sharing finance departments is practical from a financial and operational point of view, then both municipalities should be prepared to follow through with its implementation before moving on to the next area.
In an era when taxpayer dollars are harder to come by, there should be many other opportunities for added municipal co-operation. Now that the Cumberland Regional Development Authority is no more – and its replacement is no where to be seen – sharing community and economic development services would seem to be a logical next step.