There is more than enough of debate in government about where to save money and what to cut, but there aren't many ideas. Mansfield recently asked for help from citizens in exchange for compensation. Here are a couple of ideas that have been successful elsewhere that perhaps we could do here.
First, there are certain government jobs that have posts that must be filled. For example, teachers, police, correctional officers, and fire departments. All must be fully staffed.
But sometimes people call in sick. When this happens, someone else must do overtime to cover the shift, or in the case of a school, we call in a substitute teacher. However, when someone calls in sick, taxpayers pay that employee 100 percent of their salary for the sick leave, and we pay someone else (usually) 150 percent to work overtime.
People legitimately get sick and sick leave is vital, but there is another reason sick leave is used: sometimes "sick" translates into "sick of work." I have worked in a city agency and for a state agency - this is how it is. The person who never calls in sick is an exception. Government employees in high stress positions, such as those mentioned above, often use most if not all of their sick leave. "Use it or lose it."
For posts that must be filled with an overtime worker when the scheduled staff calls in sick, the question is: how can we incentivize less sick time abuse? Here is one way.
A sick day is worth only 100 percent of a day's work - call in sick, get paid what you normally do. But governments can offer to buy sick leave back at the end of a year for 115 percent of its value. The employee gets 15 percent more for not using it and selling it back and the government doesn't spend 35 percent on the additional overtime. And this is always optional; the employee can sell it back if they want or they can use it. When we have employees selling sick leave back at 115 percent, this means that is one less day that we are not paying someone 150 percent in overtime costs, a 35 percent savings.
This is done in several government jurisdictions throughout the U.S., it is done in the private sector, and perhaps it should be done in our area.
Second. Generally speaking, Republicans want to cut social programs while Democrats want to save social programs. Neither really know what to cut or save. Even though we spend millions of dollars on social programs, governments have no idea of their social service programs work or not. I have done performance measures with local and state agencies and I can positively tell you that programs are not being measured for outcomes. So here is another idea - measure what we are doing to find out what works and what doesn't.
There are people who say social programs can't be measured; that is incorrect. If the program is "evidence-based" this means it was measured somewhere else, so we can measure it, too. Even if it isn't evidence-based, we can still measure it. Program measurement is certainly complicated but it can be done, it should be done, and I'll gladly show any skeptic how.
Knowing if something works or not is a win-win situation. If a program works, improves quality of life, and saves money in the long run, good; we should expand on it. If it doesn't work, then we know we need to look at reform or why the program isn't working right.
Remember, these things have been done in other jurisdictions in the U.S., so they do work. But if you say we are different I say let's try these things first and then prove me wrong.
PAUL HEROUX of Attleboro worked in local and state government performance measures for several years.