Introduction

 

Executive Summary

At full implementation, a consolidated city could generate annual savings of $2.3 to $4.2 million and produce savings for the typical property on bothsides of the river.Consolidating the cities of Lewiston and Auburn into a single municipality could reduce existing property tax levies by 2.5 to 4.4 percent while preserving – and in certain areas, further investing in – the level of services the community relies on.

Total annualized tax savings of $2.3 to $4.2 million would produce savings for the median property on both sides of the Androscoggin River. Over a ten-year period of full implementation, savings of $23 to $42 million would translate into overall savings of as much as $1,900 for the typical Lewiston property and $1,050 for the typical Auburn property.

Even beyond potential savings, consolidation would offer the community unique opportunities to improve the capacity and level of its services – opportunities that are not otherwise available if the cities remain separate. For example:

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One Police Department could result in improved patrol capacity with more officers on the street and fewer administrators

 

 

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One Fire Department could result in improved responses by ensuring emergencies are addressed by the closest unit

 

 

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One School Department could create the largest and most comprehensive district in Maine, offering greater specialization and student choices

 

 

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One Planning Department could result in improved planning capacity through the addition of more staff planner expertise

 

 

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One Economic Development Department could result in improved staff capacity to focus on downtown development efforts

 

 

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One Public Works Department could improve specialization and offset recent staff reductions in both cities

 

 

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One Finance & Administration Department could capitalize on synergies across similar services and more efficiently serve the community

 

 

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One City Administration could result in more growth opportunities for employees and functional specialization for the city

 

 

One City Government could eliminate certain “threshold costs” required by separate governments, freeing up resources that can be redeployed elsewhere

  

Introduction

This report presents potential options available to the Lewiston-Auburn community in the event it decides to consolidate its two separate city governments. The report builds on a comprehensive baseline review issued by the Lewiston-Auburn Joint Charter Commission in May 2016, entitled Baseline Services and Financial Overview: Cities of Lewiston and Auburn, Maine. That report, prepared by CGR on behalf of the Charter Commission, established a foundational understanding of how the cities deliver and fund essential services; their basic governing structures; assets, debts and liabilities; and other issues that may bear on the question of consolidation. In order to fully understand the options discussed in the current report in their proper context, readers are encouraged to review the baseline document. The document is available on the Charter Commission’s website at http://newlacharter.ning.com/reference.

How this report was developed

In total, 40 members of the Lewiston-Auburn community participated in the process of reviewing services and evaluating options for consolidation.This report is the product of an extensive four month process involving Charter Commission members, CGR’s study team and stakeholders in both cities. To facilitate a thorough review of each service area and a full vetting of available options, the Charter Commission established a series of “workgroups” with specific departmental / service review responsibilities. Each workgroup was chaired by a member of the Charter Commission, and included community representatives who accepted an invitation to participate in the options review process.

In total, 40 members of the Lewiston-Auburn community participated, in addition to the six members of the Commission. The workgroups and their focus areas were as follows.

·       City Operations Workgroup (Charles Morrison, Chair): Consider and make recommendations on general city functions, including administration, planning and permitting, codes, general assistance, economic and community development, library, legal, financial administration, accounting, tax collection, clerk, tax assessing, human resources, information technology, and relevant boards, committees and commissions.

Community representatives: Ed Barrett, Lincoln Jeffers, Howard Kroll, Adam Lee, Nate Libby, Steve Morgan, Bette Thibault and Curt Webber

·       Education Workgroup (Chantel Pettengill, Chair): Consider and make recommendations on education functions, including the establishment of a “vision” for how a consolidated school department could be structured and what it could deliver to the Lewiston-Auburn community.

Community representatives: Joyce Bucciantini, Pat Gauthier, Peter Geiger, Joyce Gibson, Bill Grant, Bonnie Hayes, Tina Hutchinson, Jake Langlais, Jodi Redmun, Matt Roy and Samantha Sias

·       Public Safety Workgroup (Holly Lasagna, Chair): Consider and make recommendations on law enforcement, fire protection, emergency medical services and dispatch.

Community representatives: Mark Cayer, Phil Crowell, Paul Gosselin, Paul LeClair, Bob Macdonald, ZamZam Mohamud, Joe Philippon, Michael Scott, Bettyann Sheats and Donna Steckino

·       Public Works Workgroup (Lucien Gosselin, Chair): Consider and make recommendations on public works services, infrastructure and related services delivered by utilities and / or separate authorities (including sewer and water).

Community representatives: Elliott Epstein, Dick Grandmaison, Tammy Grieshaber, Bob Hayes, Sid Hazelton, Luke Jenson, David Jones, Normand Lamie, Rick Lanman, Phil Nadeau and Dwight Payne

For each workgroup, the CGR study team mapped out a range of general options for how functions could be structured in the event of consolidation. In delineating the available options, the study team’s role was to inform the workgroup on the range of possibilities; facilitate its consideration thereof; and document the workgroup’s final recommended alternative(s), where applicable. In many cases, workgroup deliberations led to the further development of “hybrid” options, as workgroup members sought to address perceived community expectations and / or leverage opportunities to improve service levels and quality through different forms of reorganization.

The initial options developed for each workgroup by the CGR study team were based on several factors, including the study team’s collection and analysis of data in the baseline phase, an identification of efficiency / cost savings opportunities that could be enabled from consolidation, and the study team’s perception of how municipal best practices could be applied to further enhance services and administration in Lewiston-Auburn.

The CGR team presented each workgroup with several options for each service area to review and discuss. The options ranged from no restructuring (i.e. merged baseline) to minimal (i.e. Model 1) and to finally intensive (i.e. Models 2, 3, etc.) restructuring, as follows.

·       Merged Baseline: This model assumes that in the event of consolidation, all current staff / titles would transfer to a consolidated city in their current form. No analysis is provided in this model regarding the duplication of positions and / or responsibilities.

·       Model #1: This is the first “true” restructuring model for most departments, in that it envisions changes to the current staffing level (and deployment thereof) as a result of consolidation. The goal of this model is to retain the full workforce complement (i.e. the same number of full-time equivalent positions) in a consolidation, but leverage a merged department to “repurpose” or “redeploy” duplicative administrative-level titles into lower-level line staff positions. Savings in this model are generally derived from the cost differential between line-staff positions and the administrative titles they replace.

·       Model #2: This pushes the restructuring further by eliminating one or more titles as a result of consolidation. As such, it is often the first model to reduce overall headcount as a result of merger. Often, the reduction is applied to one or more administrative-level titles only.

·       Where applicable, a model #3 or even model #4 is presented. These models contemplate possible reductions in duplicative support and / or line staff titles. They may also consider cross-departmental synergies in a consolidated government, where multiple departments are currently performing reasonably similar functions in parallel fashion.

This framework notwithstanding, the approach workgroups took to reviewing their respective service areas was slightly different in each case. In staffing and providing analytical support to each workgroup, the CGR study team sought to bring a level of standardization across them – ensuring they were focusing at the appropriate level of detail and facilitating consideration of a range of alternatives.

Using this process, the development of options led to the consideration of their feasibility and relative impacts, which in turn led to the development of a workgroup recommendation. According to the Charter Commission’s agreed-upon process, those workgroup recommendations were then forwarded to the full Commission.

How this report is structured

This report presents the options considered by the workgroups in each of the primary areas relevant to the consolidation discussion. In cases where the workgroup endorsed a recommended option, or set forth a particular vision of how a consolidated entity would best be structured, that is so noted. In an effort to share with the public the full menu of options, the report presents the range of alternatives considered by the workgroup in cases where multiple structures or pathways were considered.

What this report does not address

The Commission’s work to draft a consolidation agreement has occurred parallel to CGR’s evaluation of options and impacts.Readers should note that while the elements presented in this report are vitally important to a potential consolidation of Lewiston and Auburn, they are not the only elements to be considered. Under the State of Maine law that governs the Charter Commission’s work – Title 30-A, §2152 of the Maine Revised Statutes – the Commission is also tasked with drafting a consolidation agreement between the communities that includes the following:

Charter. The proposed charter to govern how the city will operate and include details clarifying the post-election process for how the two cities work through the many details and make actual decisions for how the new city would operate.

City Name. The name of the new community.

City Hall. The proposed name and location of the municipal office.

City Assets. The property, real and personal, belonging to each municipality, and its fair value.

City Debt. The indebtedness, bonded and otherwise, of each municipality.

Taxes to Service Existing Debt. The terms for apportioning tax rates to service the existing bonded indebtedness of the respective municipalities.

Other Information. Any other necessary and proper facts and terms.

The Commission’s work on these elements has occurred parallel to CGR’s evaluation of consolidation impacts. Readers are strongly encouraged to review the Charter Commission’s draft charter for information on the city council, the formation of city council districts, powers and responsibilities of city officers, critical procedures for governing the new city, and more. Those elements are not otherwise addressed in this options report.

Implementation and transition

The Commission’s proposed charter calls for a two-year transition process, during which critical building blocks of consolidation would be assembled before the new government begins.If voters of Lewiston and Auburn were to approve a consolidation of the two cities, the eventual decisions on how the new city would operate and its services would be the purview of the newly elected city council and mayor. Although the recommended courses of action offered by the Commission’s workgroups are the result of considerable review, analysis and discussion, they are still only recommendations. The new government would ultimately be responsible for making decisions on organizational structure, budgets, staffing and more – just as the respective elected officials are doing today in Lewiston and Auburn.

Typically in cases of municipal consolidation, an affirmative referendum to merge is followed by a “transition period.” The transition period lasts from the date of referendum to the effective date of consolidation. The Commission’s proposed charter calls for a two-year transition process.

For example, if Lewiston and Auburn were to approve consolidation in November 2017, the transition period would span through 2019, with the effective date of consolidation being January 1, 2020. During the transition period, the critical building blocks of consolidation are assembled – facility space reviewed, organizational structure determined, managerial-level staffing assignments named, and so on. But because this part of the process pre-dates the effective date of consolidation, both governments continue to operate as independent entities during the transition year, both in terms of governance and service delivery.

For this reason, successful transitions often rely on one or both of the following to ensure coordination between the governments and a timely / orderly transition:

·       Joint Council Meetings, where the two city councils meet on a regular schedule during the transition year to review implementation progress, identify / resolve any transition impediments, and plan for key “Day One” decisions in advance of the new government being seated; and

·       Transition Task Force, a separate body appointed to administer, provide structure to, and report to the two city governments and general public on the merger transition process. The Transition Task Force is often comprised of a combination of elected officials and residents, and communicates regularly with both councils. As part of the charter, the Lewiston Auburn Joint Charter Commission has proposed a transition task force and an extensive transition process to implement the new charter.