One good question that keeps coming up in discussion of metro government is exactly how would county residents save money on the functions of government, how much and in what categories?
The short answer is nobody knows because the committee that is responsible for figuring it out hasn’t been formed yet.
Nor will it be formed unless Charleston and Kanawha residents agree that they want to consider forming a consolidated government. That can be done either through a petition or by resolutions passed by Charleston City Council and the Kanawha County Commission.
I asked Jennifer Sayre, deputy county manager, when residents could expect to get more specific details about metro government savings. Here is her response:
When will the cost savings of Metro Government be discussed?
Since the discussion has started regarding Metro Government in Kanawha County and the City of Charleston, the number one question that has been asked is how much money will a consolidated government save? Unfortunately there is no correct answer to this question at this time. As I have posted before on the Gazette’s Blog, most of the decisions regarding the layout of the consolidated government will not be developed until the Charter Review Committee is appointed. The Charter Review Committee must be composed of the following based upon statute:
(1) Two government officials or their designees from the Principal City appointed by the governing body of the principal city;
(2) Two County Commissioners or their designees from the affected County appointed by the County Commission;
(3) Two or three public members, including one from an unincorporated area, elected by the other members to make the number of the charter review committee members and odd number.
As you can see, the members of the Charter Review Committee must represent the full population of those being considered in the consolidated government. Once the Charter Review Committee is appointed, then the Committee has two years to study metro government as the law requires and provide a draft charter for the public to vote on. The development of this charter will allow for public comment as required by the statute. The Committee must hold at least three public hearings during its study of metro government and completion of a draft during the two-year allowed period.
The Committee is charged with several duties, which include
(1) The fiscal impact of the proposed consolidation on the affected municipalities, counties and metro governments including:
a. The cost of providing services by the consolidated local government;
b. Projected revenues available to the consolidated local government based upon proposed classifications and tax structures; and
c. Projected economies of scale resulting from consolidation.
Therefore, the Charter Review Committee will take into account the proposed cost and cost savings of a Consolidated Government. The Committee will be given ample opportunity to study potential cost savings with the Metro Government. The Committee’s study process and draft Charter will be a public document that may be viewed by the public during its draft period. The draft Charter will also be discussed in public meetings and the public will have the opportunity to provide input.
As it has been stated, this is a process that will take time and all of the answers will not be given in one single day. The Charter Review Committee has much more information to study and prepare as part of the Charter, the financial aspect is only one piece.