Sunday, November 8, 2009

Saving money for a change

It's hard to believe that the county government uses 1,000 cell phones, but changes may be made to the phone policy to save taxpayers as much as $500,000. It appears that the county has been paying $90 a month for people to have cell phones that use them 15 minutes a month. I find it hard to understand why public safety and emergency workers need 700 cell phones. Oh well, it is at least refreshing to see Ulman saving money rather than spending it. With a $2 billion dollar budget, there are many more ways to cut costs.

According to Ulman, budget director Raymond S. Wacks and chief administrative officer Lonnie Robbins, the idea is to switch from having the county obtain cell phones for employees and County Council members to having it pay a monthly stipend of either $40 or $90 to workers deemed to need the phones.

That could allow some to use one phone, rather than one for personal use and a second phone for county business.

"It just gets away from record-keeping," Robbins said.

In addition, the county would reduce the number of cell phones from the roughly 1,000 now used by county workers. The changes, expected to be announced in a few weeks, would save money and eliminate county record-keeping required by the Internal Revenue Service, Ulman said. Wacks said cost savings can be achieved.

"We're paying $90 a month for someone to use the phone for 15 minutes a month," Wacks said. Moving to a two-tiered system, Robbins said, could get employees who do need a phone but don't use it much the lower monthly stipend. Instead of maintaining a separate county phone, the money could help pay for the person's personal phone, leaving the record-keeping to them.

Robbins said most of the phones - about 700 - are being used by public safety and emergency workers, though each County Council member also has one.

To drift a little off topic, one of the arguments for a single payer health system is that government would increase efficiency by reducing administrative costs. Ha!