Working to Reduce Government Cost, by Ryan Costello

Working to Reduce Government Cost, by Ryan Costello

Published: Feb 15, 2011 at 8:49 am

By Ryan Costello.

By now, most local residents are well aware of the financial pressures facing Chester County government and the requirement to meet the basic needs of our residents with less spending.  Two major issues are exacerbating the current financial situation:

First, federal and state governments are also facing budget constraints that will result in reduced federal and state funding and grants to Chester County.  These reductions – which have typically helped to support county programs – will place an increased strain on county revenues and the allocation of resources.

Second, the county’s pension obligations have required an increased contribution from the County general fund, due to downturns in the financial markets.  Chester County is certainly not alone in grappling with this problem.  Counties and municipalities across the state are facing the same challenge.  While we must work to meet these obligations for past and current county employees, I believe we need to simultaneously work to implement a new system of retirement planning for new county employees. Before we can take action, however, the state must adopt legislation that will enable us to make the necessary reforms.

At the same time, we must continue to fund capital projects that have already been initiated, such as the public safety training facility.  County government must also fund a new, much-needed 911 system for the safety and security of our residents.

These competing factors, among others, necessitate a re-allocation of county resources that will put us in the best position to hold the line on taxes.  Let me be clear: holding the line on taxes must be county government’s number one priority.  As County Recorder of Deeds and a former township supervisor, I have experience reducing operating expenditures at the county level and holding the line on real estate taxes at the municipal level.  I know the challenges we face, and my experience in government demonstrates that I have put my philosophy of fiscal conservatism into practice.

Smaller government is required, but so too is governing with a philosophy that we need to continually look to seek innovative ways for more productive government at a lower cost.  I do not believe there should be any “sacred cows.” Rather, all programs and departments need to be examined from a cost-benefit analysis and productivity standpoint.  We need to think creatively about how to minimize operational costs and evaluate the true effectiveness of various programs.

As a county official, my involvement in the strategic planning process leads me to conclude that we are now providing quantifiable objectives with metrics so that resources can be re-allocated to provide the most bang for our county buck. But now that we have implemented a strategic plan, the next step is to use it effectively to make Chester County government even more productive, and at a lower cost, wherever possible – as I see it, that is the job of a County Commissioner.

Continued assessments of county departments will require department heads to justify their needs and functions. Most recently, the Commissioners decided to undertake an assessment of the County’s technological and information services department, so that we can streamline as much as possible using new technologies.

I also welcome discussion on the merits and advantages of privatizing non-essential county services and assets. While this must be undertaken responsibly with appropriate due diligence, 21st century government can no longer continue to “governmentalize” certain functions which are more effectively left to the private sector.

Yes, we face challenges. But with careful analysis and a commitment to fiscal responsibility, we can ensure that Chester County taxpayers get the highest possible return on their tax dollars. I encourage all Chester County taxpayers to scrutinize our government spending, and provide their thoughts and input — an active, engaged citizenry makes government all the more transparent, and effective.

Ryan Costello is currently running for Chester County Commissioner. Recently appointed to fill the remaining term of Carol Aichele, Ryan was the Chester County Recorder of Deeds and prior to that was Chairman of the Board of Supervisors in East Vincent Township.

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