I say this a lot, but I believe it completely: There are 19 communities in Milwaukee County, often delivering services 19 different ways. That is not sustainable.
So we must explore partnerships where we can, and where they make sense.
The City of South Milwaukee and Oak Creek are considering one that seems to make sense: a collaboration around public health services.
Our latest research on intergovernmental service sharing suggests that the cities of Oak Creek and South Milwaukee could improve public health services in both communities at no extra cost should they decide to pursue health department consolidation.
- Despite their differences in geographical size and population, South Milwaukee and Oak Creek provide similar types and levels of public and environmental health services and devote remarkably similar amounts of resources and staffing to deliver those services.
- Sharing or consolidation of staff resources could help resolve existing recruitment challenges, enhance programming capacity and quality, improve billing and reimbursement, and eliminate redundant administrative functions.
- While significant savings are unlikely to materialize from full consolidation, existing appropriations could be combined to produce higher-quality services and/or to prevent service reductions in the face of fiscal constraints.
- The report suggests a three-phased approach, which would allow for immediate implementation of service sharing opportunities, but allows the two cities to stop short of full consolidation if deemed appropriate.
Public health services are critical to me and this city, and I want to find ways to invest in these services for the long term, even as we face increasingly difficult budget times. The vision laid out in the report offers us a strong option to do this — to potentially enhance our health services and increase our capacity, as we collaborate with our neighbors.
Of course, the details matter, and there is a lot of debate to be had on this potential partnership, and details to be worked out.
In addition, the phased approach the report suggests allows us to evaluate any relationship with Oak Creek as we go, allowing us to ensure the quality of the service is at worst being maintained, at best significantly improved.
I welcome your thoughts on this, and will keep you posted as we further explore a collaboration with our neighbor.
Given financial realities, we need new and innovative approaches to how we deliver our services. I’m proud to say the city is actively working to deliver on this promise.