Feasibility Studies Offer Foresight to Governments Interested in Collaboration

By Dave Yost, Ohio Auditor of State

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Governments face a seemingly endless stream of challenging decisions. Unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury of a fortune-teller – at least a legitimate one – to foresee the outcomes of our choices before we make them.  

But if there’s anything that comes close, it’s my office’s Ohio Performance Team (OPT) and the shared services feasibility study program born out of House Bill 5.

The legislation, signed into law by Governor Kasich one year ago, authorized OPT to conduct feasibility studies that measure the likely results of collaboration between neighboring governments – before they commit valuable time and resources. The studies are voluntary and, better yet, they don’t cost participants a penny.

The performance auditors of OPT do not peer into a crystal ball or study the lines on your hand. Instead, they use data analytics to project the financial and operational outcomes, positive and negative, that could result from putting an idea into practice.

We’ve already begun the first of these studies. The Bellaire Local School District in Belmont County approached OPT this past year with an idea to share school bus facilities and maintenance resources with a handful of nearby school districts and educational service centers. The district had prior working relationships with the neighboring entities, so collaboration just made sense.

As with every study, our performance team met with the interested parties to discuss their goals for the project. From there, our auditors started the data-gathering process and soon will transition into the analysis phase. Finally, OPT will compile a report explaining the findings in full detail and hold a public meeting to discuss the study with stakeholders and citizens. It’s then up to the participating governments to determine the next steps and decide whether they wish to move forward with the project.

Several additional entities have also reached out to OPT with interest in initiating a feasibility study, but we have yet to receive any inquiries from a township. If you’re looking for project ideas, don’t forget to check out the Savings Idea Center on skinnyOhio.org.

But it’s OK if you don’t already have one to bring to the table. We want governments to share their problems with us so we can discuss whether collaboration might be a solution. I encourage all interested townships to contact OPT by calling 614-387-6295 or emailing Performance@ohioauditor.gov.

I predict you’ll find it well worth your while.

This article was first published in the Ohio Township Magazine.