Recent economic challenges have compelled some local elected officials in Illinois to question routine ways of running government. In particular, leaders in the Village of Glenview realized “business as usual” was unsustainable, and that resorting to tax increases for generating additional revenue would not work anymore.
So they took a step back, made significant changes in the way they operated, and focused on core services.
“As a Municipal Manager, I would say that we have an ongoing obligation to ensure a minimal tax burden on our residents. For this reason, we must constantly study best practices, just as our residents must do in their own businesses,” said Todd Hileman, Glenview village manager.
“As Glenview began exploring best practices it might incorporate, there was no shortage of examples,” he said. “Municipal governments across the country are increasingly modeling alternative service delivery options. All of us in the municipal field are best served when we share these experiences with our peers.”
As municipalities consider new guiding principles and best practices in order to balance the books and provide core services residents expect, they can look to Glenview as a model for another way of doing business.
Best Practices, Core Services
Glenview is an upscale village with a population of about 46,000 in Cook County, about 18 miles north of downtown Chicago. Village officials started down a new path about five years ago, asking Glenview government workers to look for ways to improve services and hold down costs. They achieved tremendous cost-saving and quality-driven results by following these principles and best practices:
- Long-range planning for budgeting and programming.
- Defining core competencies. What is the local government designed to do, and what does it do well? For what purpose does it exist?
- Ongoing, in-depth analysis of programs, services, and processes. Management must ask: Do programs make sense? On what basis were program standards established? Are service levels appropriate for the needs of the customer (in the Village’s case, the community and residents)? What are the true costs involved? Is the service necessary? Is this the best way to provide this service?
- An organizational structure that flows out of organizational goals. Staffing levels, service delivery methods, positions, and department structure must be justified in terms of the organizational objectives achieved.
- Cost-efficient service provision that doesn’t compromise quality.
Change in Culture
A paradigm shift in culture, management, and institutional structure presents many challenges, however. Not surprisingly, village officials acknowledge some staff members did not easily accept change.
If the Village of Glenview had not taken on this challenge and changed course from “business as usual,” however, local leaders estimate it would be facing budget deficits in excess of $10 million per year, or approximately 20 percent of the Corporate Fund budget.
Hileman said without the ability to raise revenues of this magnitude, the Village would have needed to make deep cuts (reductions and eliminations) to services. Those moves have now been avoided.
Financially Strong, Efficient
Today Glenview enjoys financial solvency and more cost-efficient procurement and continually strives for high-quality services at the best price.
As Chris Clark, Deputy Village Manager of Glenview, said, “A key lesson for municipalities, I think, is that they can better serve their citizens by partnering to share resources and successfully provide cost-effective services.”
Kate Campaigne Piercy ([email protected]) is director of government reform at the Illinois Policy Institute.
The Village of Glenview collaborated with Illinois Policy Institute to produce a comprehensive case study about its successes, “‘Beyond Business As Usual”: A Case Study”: http://www.illinoispolicy.org/news/article.asp?ArticleSource=1444