Reducing County Costs Through Policy
When I started working for the county, I was surprised to discover that departments were not required to use the county's print shop. When placing a print order, they were able to shop around to try and find a cheaper price, assuming this was the best way to reduce expenditures.
While their intentions were honorable, departments were missing the bigger picture. The county essentially paid for the order twice: first, by paying the vendor's invoice and second, by covering the overhead costs for staff and equipment that wasn't being utilized. It was like installing kitchen appliances, stocking the fridge with groceries, and then eating at a restaurant.
This type of purchasing created a viscous cycle. As more departments took their business outside of the county, there were fewer sources of revenue to cover the print shop's overhead costs. Fewer customers meant we needed to charge higher rates in order to balance the budget. Higher rates meant even fewer customers. This approach meant an uncertain future for the print shop and the other internal service divisions who were in the same situation. Something had to change.
Working with the Procurement division, we pulled spending reports to see how much money was being spent with outside vendors, especially services that we could handle in-house. Then, I contacted other government print shops and confirmed they had implemented policies to support their internal service providers. They also shared some recommendations on best practices.
In partnership with other internal service divisions, I wrote the Use of Internal Service Providers Policy which was approved in January 2020. The Policy grants first right of refusal to county divisions to provide their relevant services to the county. Since the Policy was implemented, we have seen a dramatic increase in business and have been able to stabilize our service rates.
While I was pleased to help the print shop, the Policy truly benefits the taxpayers by reducing net costs. Centralized operations allow the county to purchase items in bulk and negotiate deep discounts compared to making smaller, individual purchases. The experienced internal services staff are able to review department requests, suggest cost-saving alternatives and reduce costly errors. For example, Document Solutions staff reviewed a department's postcard mailer that was being sent to every county residence. Because the employee regularly handled postcard mailings, they noticed that the department's artwork was .25" larger than the maximum postcard size allowed by USPS. By suggesting a smaller size, we were able to save the department thousands of dollars in postage.