When it comes to the issue of privatizing services, there’s always a worry that jobs will be lost and the quality of services will decline. While both are valid concerns, it’s important to look at the bigger picture.
In today’s economy, we can’t afford to overspend in our personal budgets. The same goes for governments, school districts, and other taxing jurisdictions. Every means of saving tax dollars must be scrutinized, and difficult, oftentimes unpopular decisions must be made.
Like privatizing services.
The reality is, the private sector is held to a different level of accountability than the public sector — either make the bottom line, or cease to exist.
Private business is not bound by state-mandated wage increases or benefits packages which have become way out of line with those in the private sector.
The result is private businesses operate much more lean, provide better customer service and are forced to be efficient to stay in the black. They do not have a seemingly endless supply of tax dollars to fall back on if they are not.
It is for this reason that governing agencies like Clinton County have taken a hard look at moving away from government control toward private control.
The county Legislature voted last month to sell its home health care service license to HCR Home Care. Based on what we’ve seen so far, it’s been a prudent move.
Like many arms of government, the county’s home healthcare services program had been hemorrhaging money to the tune of $2 million a year for the past two years. The majority of the legislators agreed it was no longer fiscally responsible to keep providing the services it has for the past 45 years if the county was going to continue to lose money.
At the same time, privatizing services is only an advisable move when it is carefully studied.
Based on the presentations made by HCR Home Care and from the information shared with the media and the public by the legislators, it seems like a wise deal. HCR Home Care officials say they can provide the same level of services at the same level of quality. The company backed up its statements with a proven track record of professionally servicing more than 2,000 patients in a five-county coverage area, and doing so at a profit.
Let’s hope that is the future for the 300 patients here.
Another example of privatization may soon take place in the town of Champlain. The Northeastern Clinton Central School District is doing what the county Legislature did, studying the feasibility of privatizing services. This time, it’s the school district’s bussing services.
The school district’s board of education is obtaining a free cost analysis from a private bus company to investigate how much could be saved — if anything — if the district were to contract with a firm versus continue to employ its own drivers. Though there are concerns over the loss of jobs with such a move, district officials have stated it has been the practice of private firms to bring the currently employed workers under their wing.
Either way, as Gov. Cuomo once said, schools really aren’t in the business of providing jobs; they are in the business of providing a quality education to our children. If money can be freed up for that by privatizing bussing, then why not hand over the keys?
If a cost savings can be proven, it is our sincere hope that the school board does not bow to union pressure and makes the tough decisions we’re all having to make with our personal budgets to make ends meet.
It’s been said that anything the government can do, private industry can do better. That may be a bit of a stretch, but it is worth studying in this economic climate, and if our tax dollars are better spent in the private sector, then that’s where they should be.