Saturday, July 1, 2017

Bill Crawford: How to save money 101

George Carlin’s word skits made me laugh… and sometimes think. His monologue about “shell shock” morphing to “battle fatigue” then to “post-traumatic stress disorder” lampoons how we have come to use less disturbing, more benign words to camouflage reality. It came to mind when the Governor made his budget proposal.

(No, not our current governor. I wrote this and the following excerpts in my December 2009 column regarding Gov. Haley Barbour's proposed budget.)

‘Shared services’ sounds benign…much more so than ‘consolidation’ or ‘merger’ doesn’t it?

But public CEOs didn’t smile when Haley Barbour said, “There is no reason for each of the 15 community and junior colleges to have its own back room operation, such as payroll, insurance, and purchasing. A single such administration operation should be set up, preferably combined with the same functions for IHL universities. Shared services saves money.”

NASA didn’t camouflage its intentions about shared services.

As deputy director of the Mississippi Development Authority, I was part of the team that competed to locate the NASA Shared Services Center at Stennis Space Center. In 2001, NASA began to study the benefits and costs of forming a “Consolidated Business Services Organization” to serve its ten facilities across the country. By April 2003, NASA concluded that such consolidation could improve efficiency and save money. NASA decided to use public-private competition to implement its plan, a process it called competitive sourcing.

To compete, Stennis Space Center added Mississippi and Louisiana as public financial partners. Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC), an eminent information technology (IT) and business process outsourcing company, became our private operating partner.

In 2005, this partnership won the competition based on both the best price and CSC’s strong performance record. To NASA, who was to do the work was as important as price.

Today, NASA still has multiple facilities, but its one shared services center in South Mississippi is saving taxpayers millions of dollars annually. What services were consolidated? Accounts payables and receivables; payroll; travel reimbursements; HR services and training support; IT services; and procurement.

Commercial banks figured this out long ago. Central operations centers provide back room services to multiple banks, sometimes in multiple states…consolidation that has saved banks millions in overhead costs without reducing market presence.

There are no operating or financial reasons for eight universities and 15 colleges – or 142 state agencies, 152 school districts, 82 counties, and 200 plus municipalities for that matter – to maintain separate back room operations.

The obvious lesson is that public CEOs could save lots of money through shared services with no harm to teaching or service functions. A no-brainer, right?

As president of the College Board I appointed a task force to develop a "no-brainer" IT shared services plan for universities. University CEO resistance was stultifying. Apparently, for many public CEOs, controlling their own stuff is far more important than efficiency.

And, sharing lessons control.

“You wouldn’t want somebody to come by and take some of your stuff?” smirked George Carlin to get a laugh.

(Our Legislature has so far laughed off shared service proposals, despite conservative Republicans gaining super majorities in the House and Senate. Politically, it's easy to squeeze budgets, but hard to truly rightsize government.)

Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Meridian (


Anonymous said...

If community colleges would consolidate services, millions of dollars would be saved. It'll never happen. Each district is a little fiefdom where the college president gets to dole out contracts and favors. Each president gets to live rent free and utility bill free in a fine house, drive a free car, eat free and enjoy a healthy salary with PERS retirement as long as his supervisor-appointed board of trustees are happy. It's the best job in Mississippi government and there are both good and awful presidents. The CC board should be abolished and the responsibilities rolled into IHL. That'll never happen either. Woe be unto the legislator who stumbles into that pit of vipers.

Kingfish said...

The Cabal at MDDC will never allow this to happen. Didn't Mr. Crawford read those Documents of Concern?

Anonymous said...

See, how you handle this is to create an "error" sending revenues into decline and therefor BUDGET CUTS, and BUDGET CUTS mean consolidation--eventually.

Anonymous said...

Not defending the status quo but a true analysis would factor in the job losses that will result from consolidation and the downstream economic impacts those job losses will create.

The low hanging fruit in this discussion is consolidation of the public school districts. AP, AR, Payroll and HR are easily consolidated. Since so many of the districts are small and highly duplicative that may also be the arena with the fewest (quantity) initial job losses.

Legislators are never going to agree to big bite consolidation. Start with what will produce the least job cuts and prove the benefits.

We can change and reform now or face the brink of insolvency later. These are spending problems, not tax problems. If you aren't paying attention to what is going down in Illinois well, then, you aren't paying attention.

Anonymous said...

The way to " handle this" is for the voters to demand it.
It's called " economies of scale" and it's easy to confirm the benefits by looking at what the results of consolidation are in other states.
But to make it simple, it's basically the benefit you get from buying in bulk. It's like getting wholesale prices instead of paying retail.
In's a " no brainer". You can buy 100000 text books cheaper than you can buy 10000. Not only do you save taxpayers money, you save the students money on the books they have to buy for a class. Do remember too, that junior colleges and the IHL share curriculums for the first two years. English 101 is English 101.
The problem is that the entities who benefit " from the way things are" will take advantage of voter's loyalties to a junior college and paint a dire, but inaccurate picture of how consolidation would harm their beloved school or the community in which the school exits. They also take advantage of the fact that most voters don't have the time to find out the dirty details and it's in the details where corruption and waste is allowed to flourish.

Anonymous said...

Our top officials don't know a thing about cutting spending. They know a lot about cutting services and pushing spending down on to towns and counties.

Anonymous said...

I thought once we elected Republicans to the legislature they were going to fix all this. The Dems aren't in charge anymore. What is the excuse this time?

Anonymous said...

"a 'no-brainer' IT shared services plan for universities. University CEO resistance was stultifying. Apparently, for many public CEOs, controlling their own stuff is far more important than efficiency."

As a veteran end-user of these IT services in state government (not universities), I have no control, authority, or kingdom to protect. But I can attest that my end-user experience has been universally bad. Efficiency in IT services matters not at all if we can't do our jobs on the front line. We have no support, no help, no practical IT usage at all. They decide what we "need" and don't "need" without ever even asking what we do and how we do it. I can't even get a (free) simple interest calculation program to do my state-required interest calculations! But I can spend $20k on stuff they like but I don't need. There's a LOT more to it than simple "efficiency." SOMEONE needs to be in charge of making sure the IT product is actually useful, and that someone doesn't need to work in or for the IT dept. and certainly doesn't need to be a completely disconnected task force.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS