By Kevin Kelley
An old joke asks, “What’s high in the middle and round at both ends?”
The answer: “O-HI-O.”
State auditor Dave Yost wants Ohio to become skinny all over, at least when it comes to government.
As guest speaker at the monthly luncheon meeting of the West Shore Chamber of Commerce April 10, Yost promoted the website skinnyohio.org. The site is a tool his office is using to promote ways to run government entities more efficiently.
Yost noted the auditor’s office is most known for conducting regular audits of municipalities and schools districts, as well as special audits in cases where financial irregularities are suspected or discovered.
But Yost devoted most of his talk to performance audits, in which the use of public dollars by a political entity is compared to that of similar entities.
“A lot of governments around the United States are starting to do this,” he said of performance audits.
A recent performance of the Youngstown City Schools revealed that its bus routes were still done by pencil and paper rather than computer software, Yost said during his talk at La Centre Conference and Banquet Center. A switch to software ended up saving that district $236,000 annually, he reported.
Performance audits can often yield significant savings without cutting government services, Yost said.
“This isn’t cutting with a chain saw,” he said of the budget reviews done in performance audits.
“Performance audits are a way for us to help reduce the size and scope of government in a smart way – the way they do in the private sector,” the state auditor said. “Take a look at the things we’re that doing well – let’s preserve that. The things that we don’t do well – let’s figure out a different way to do them. Let’s skinny the government down.”
The auditor’s office has posted many lessons learned from performance audits on the skinnyohio.org website. Ideas on shared services, where several governmental entities join together to provide services in an effort to reduce costs, will also be posted, Yost said. The site will soon include contract templates for shared services to make it easier and less expensive for municipalities to implement such ideas, he added.
“It is chuck full of ideas on how to do government better,” Yost said of the website.
A recent performance audit of 24 local governments in Lake County revealed underutilization of heavy equipment, such as dump trucks, backhoe loaders and bulldozers, Yost noted. Some equipment was used only 3 percent of the time.
“The best piece of equipment was used only 48 percent of the time,” the state auditor said.
Last September, a new state law went into effect allowing different government entities to contract with other entities to provide services. Yost noted that Lake County municipalities will now be able to share equipment to save money.
Yost said Ohioans and Americans will be able to solve the problems in government if they know what’s really going on.
“My pledge to you is that I’m going to be the truth teller,” Yost said. “Whether you want to hear the truth or not. Sometimes I’m going to say things you’re not going to want to hear. But it’s always going to be by the numbers and on the merits.”
After the chamber luncheon, Yost met with state Rep. Nan Baker, Westlake Mayor Dennis Clough, Rocky River Mayor Pam Bobst and Westlake Finance Director Prashant Shah. Baker told the state auditor that the Westshore communities have been trailblazers in the area of shared services.