By John Celock
A Kansas lawmaker is seeking to make it easier for local governments to share services.
Legislation proposed by Rep. Tom Cox (R-Shawnee) would allow for municipalities in the state to directly contract with other local governing boards for shared services without receiving state approval. Current law allows for cities, counties and townships to enter to such agreements, but a city could not enter into a shared services agreement with a school district without approval from the state attorney general’s office.
“It makes no sense,” Cox told The Celock Report of the current system. “It adds red tape and it adds costs. This streamlines it.”
Cox said that while the current system has allowed for oversight it has stymied efforts by local governments to contract for shared services, due to the need to receive approval from Topeka before moving forward.
Under the legislation, the expansion of agencies that would be able to enter into such agreements would include school districts, library districts, water districts, road districts, drainage districts, fire districts and sewer districts. Cox said that the districts have been entering into such agreements with cities and counties for a variety of services but have needed the approval of attorney general’s office.
The legislation – which has passed the House Local Government Committee – has been endorsed by the Kansas League of Municipalities, the Kansas Association of Counties, the Kansas Association of School Boards and the Johnson County government. The groups said that it would allow for an increase in shared services and to make it more efficient for the local governments.
“We believe this bill can help clear up the process of interlocal cooperation, making finding additional efficiencies easier for Kansas communities and take away some of the potential barriers to doing so,” Rob Gilligan from the Association of School Boards wrote in testimony to the committee.
The League of Municipalities noted in written testimony to the local government panel that current shared services agreements are used for a variety of issues including the areas of public safety and public works.
Shawnee Council President Brandon Kenig told The Celock Report that shared services with other cities has benefited his community and Cox’ legislation would be positive for local governments.
“Partnering with other cities to provide essential services enables us to streamline operations and keep costs low,” Kenig said. “This bill helps remove barriers to implementing partnerships for shared services and enables us to be more efficient without limited resources. It’s a win-win for service delivery and for taxpayers.”
Cox said that the creation of the various districts – with elected boards – has been beneficial in breaking up the possibility for abuse of the local governments in the state, there is a need to streamline the process.
Cox’s bill has not been scheduled for consideration by the full House of Representatives. Cox is positive about the bill’s chances for passage and impact on the state.
“It creates an efficiency and cuts back on red tape,” he said. “This will save time at the attorney general’s office and time at the local level. They can start moving things forward.”