Re-engineering brings local savings
Empower Kentucky, an initiative to fundamentally change the way the commonwealth does business on a county-by-county basis, has a goal of saving $700 million by 2004. Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton believes that is achievable with the buy-in and dedication of county, city and special district employees.
From the program’s very beginning, the state has viewed local stakeholders as the key to success. Consequently, hundreds of city and county officials and representatives of the Kentucky League of Cities were among the groups that met regularly in late 1996 to provide input as to how the program should be structured and which of their needs had to be addressed.
The $170 million re-engineering effort is designed to reduce costs, increase revenues and improve services at every level of government, in large part through investments in new technologies and employee training. The program is focusing on more than 20 business processes, resulting in major changes in areas such as licensing and inspection; procurement; health and welfare benefits; and tax collection/distribution.
The results already are becoming apparent. During the first 180 days of the program, commonwealth employees put in place more than 50 ideas known as “quick wins” to save money and improve services. The consolidation of seven truck tax collection forms into one and the elimination of multiple copying and filing of foster care service receipts were among the many steps taken to reduce the paperwork burden on county clerks and other local officials.
Additionally, electronic commerce has been tabbed as a key element in the state’s effort to better serve local governments. The Kentucky Information Highway, a joint venture between the state and several major telecommunication providers, has helped put the backbone for electronic commerce in place. As a result, local entities need only pay for the additional bandwidth necessary to support specific applications, as opposed to investing in costly infrastructure. The Internet will link Kentucky’s 120 counties through the state library system. Today, a citizen in Paducah can enter the local library and apply for a job in Covington, more than 300 miles away. That person also can learn about upcoming state procurements and respond electronically rather than make the 200-mile drive to Frankfort.
Without first working their way through a bureaucratic maze, citizens can get onto the Web and locate the social services available in their communities. Easily accessible information on counseling services, employment opportunities, job referrals, day care and training programs can help former welfare recipients or unemployed workers become self-sufficient.
Neighborhood Place in Louisville, which is funded by the city of Louisville, the state and nonprofit organizations, currently serves as the model for social service offices throughout the commonwealth. Empower Kentucky is working to establish more one-stop service centers that bring together public sector and nonprofit organizations to provide a gamut of social services.
Massive procurement reforms also have benefited local entities. To date, 10 purchasing agreements have been developed for items ranging from office supplies to automobiles. The agreements were awarded on a “best-value” basis, meaning that such factors as warranties and set-up service were considered along with price.
Clearly, focusing on citizens at the local level and involving employees in decision-making are key strategies in the implementation of Empower Kentucky. The intended results are cost savings, a more user-friendly environment for local government employees and their constituents, and an end to the complex bureaucracy of the past.