The General Assembly passed a measure session before last that allows almost any unit of local government to "reorganize" with almost any other unit. Mostly, it's been ignored by officials who like things fine just the way they are. But in West Lafayette, Mayor John Dennis and West Side Schools Superintendent Rocky Killion are enthusiastically embracing change:
Dennis and Killion point out several examples of the expanding relationship: West Lafayette's Fire Department has used the Burtsfield Elementary School for training, the city and school district are trying to stop erosion in Happy Hollow Park and the city's redevelopment commission has loaned the school district $1 million while the schools wait for delayed property tax payments.
Now Dennis and Killion are discussing a new building at the Burtsfield site that would replace city hall and the school's administration center.
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However, a new building for the two entities may just be the beginning. City and school officials have discussed other ways to save money using the Government Modernization Act, which would allow the city and school district to combine to save the taxpayers money.
"I think the Government Modernization Act allows for a wide variety of outside thinking -- blending budget offices, blending rates, sharing resources, pooling for the purpose of insurance, looking at a variety of ways we rid ourselves of duplication," Killion said.
Perhaps impatient with the reluctance of local officials to change, the state is making noises about top-down implementation of at least some of the provisions of the Kernan-Sheperd report on government efficiency. What Dennis and Killion are doing is far better. Local officials can better see local problems and opportuntities and have a better chance of making the right call.