In October, I joined town leaders from across the state and attended productive workshops at the annual Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) convention. Given the State’s financial woes, much of the focus centered on how towns can better position themselves for impending cuts to municipal aid. Hot button items included the need for collaboration, and structural changes via regionalization and within towns themselves. Consistently, the theme relative to success was the need, ultimately, for trust between partners. I am happy to say that in Suffield, we have such trusted partners in both our schools and neighboring towns.
Since 2016, I have advocated for shared services, where appropriate, between the Town of Suffield and Suffield Public Schools to achieve efficiencies; find innovative ways to stretch tax dollars; and strategically budget to meet our combined needs. Shared information technology resources have been at the forefront given combined IT budgets of $1,008,399 or 1.7% of Suffield’s 2018-19 General Fund (Town $296,136 and SPS $712,263). While the moment has not been right in the past, I am pleased to report that we recently collaborated to effect shared IT services. This not only resulted in the successful town-wide implementation of VoIP technology, but also decreased redundancies; created economies of scale; and aided resident safety with 24/7 IT backup. We will continue to move forward with shared IT services and evaluate the arrangement in May 2019, to further define salary allocation, workload, reporting structure, etc. If all goes well, the combined Technology Department will be permanent. Until that time, Rebecca Osleger, Suffield Public Schools IT Director, will be paid a stipend by the Town for her additional responsibilities.
The benefits of one, unified Technology Department include:
• Staffing reductions via employment of only one IT Director,
• 24/7 emergency services call rotation enhancing public safety; reducing cost of Town to solely address deficit,
• Joint purchasing including hardware, software, firewalls, security, records storage, etc. for greater economies of scale,
• Transition of Town service contracts to lower priced School contracts,
• Elimination of Town consulting contract; utilizing on as needed basis only
• Strategic and cohesive plan for improved capital needs assessment,
• Streamlining of work,
• Centralized approval process (purchasing orders, contract maintenance, etc.),
• Reduced Town Hall footprint with larger space dedicated to IT eliminated,
• Town and School servers configured as each other’s backup for improved system redundancy and cost savings.
I am grateful to Mark Winzler, our Interim Superintendent, Bill Hoff, School Business Manager and Rebecca Osleger, IT Director, for being such productive partners and look forward to working with them on future cost-saving opportunities.
While at CCM, I had the pleasure of catching up with our friend and neighbor, Town of East Granby, First Selectman Jim Hayden. Our relationship is another great example of successful collaboration due to trust and open communication. Several years ago, Suffield and East Granby combined Animal Control. In the last two years, we have revitalized the service with training, professionalism and oversight. Regional efforts like this will be necessary in the future, more often than not, and I look forward to establishing Suffield as a role model for shared services and doing more with less.
Suffield truly wears a special sparkle this time of year. As holiday festivities begin, please check out our Community Calendar (www.suffield.ct.gov/community/calendar). Welcome a visitor, show off our beautiful town, and take advantage of truly wonderful holiday events, kicking off this weekend with the Winter Farmers’ Market, Suffield High School’s Agriscience Holiday Shop, the King House Holidayfest, the Suffield Garden Club’s Tree Gala and the Phelps-Hatheway House Holiday Tours.
Wishing you the happiest of holidays! Can’t wait to ring in 2019, and all the good things happening in Suffield!