The following column by Josh Mandel, treasurer of Ohio, was submitted by his office to Patch:
Running Government Like a Business Pays Off for Ohio Taxpayers
Ohio’s families, senior citizens and small businesses have sacrificed in order to make ends meet in today’s economy. I believe taxpayers have a right to expect their government to be just as committed to tightening the belt and doing more with less.
That’s why my first action as Ohio’s Treasurer was to launch a Top to Bottom Review of the office to find ways to eliminate waste and run more efficiently. This review identified over a hundred ways to save money, streamline operations and stretch taxpayer dollars.
For instance, the review uncovered that an individual was being paid to drive millions of dollars worth of government checks from Columbus to our depository bank in Cleveland every single day. I asked our staff, if a citizen can deposit a check from their smart phone or personal computer, why can’t the government? As a result, we implemented an electronic banking system that saved the state $100,000 per year in unnecessary costs, increased interest income, and perhaps most importantly, increased security of taxpayer funds.
I also looked at the spending of previous administrations and found wasteful expenses that our office could simply do without. We slashed spending on promotional materials and advertising expenses, and discontinued the purchase of giveaway items like pencils, tote bags, piggy banks, fans, golf shirts, water bottles and jar openers – items that added no real value to the core functions of the Treasurer’s office.
We also sought to break a taboo of state government and aggressively cut transportation costs and sold state vehicles. By directing our staff to either drive themselves or share vehicles with other state agencies we saved taxpayers money on car payments, insurance, parking and maintenance.
The review uncovered that one past Treasurer spent more than $678,000 on new office furniture like expensive filing cabinets, and fancy desks and chairs. I placed an immediate moratorium on the purchase of new office furniture and instructed my staff to make the best use of the furniture we have in the office.
As the state’s fiscal watchdog, we placed a renewed focus on protecting the money that we hold for taxpayers. We charted a conservative strategy to navigate the European sovereign debt crisis that allowed us to earn back all principal and interest on investments in European bank commercial paper, and to eliminate taxpayer exposure to the crisis.
We also diligently worked to maintain and improve Ohio’s credit ratings in order to keep our borrowing costs low. I am happy to report that, through our conservative budgeting and fiscal management, at the same time the United States credit rating was downgraded by Standard & Poor’s (S&P), Ohio’s credit rating outlook was upgraded.
STAR Ohio – the investment fund that I manage for local governments and school districts – maintained the highest rating possible, even as Standard & Poor's downgraded 14 other similar local government funds across the country and unfortunately downgraded the United States' credit rating for the first time in American history. Additionally, Ohio’s general obligation bonds received the highest rating possible from Fitch, at the same time as they downgraded the United States’ rating outlook.
Our efforts to run government more like a business are paying off for taxpayers. At the end of the fiscal year, we were able to return a $400,000 surplus to taxpayers, and implement a budget that reduces general revenue fund operating expenses by $1.2 million.
As Ohio’s Treasurer I have been focused on our goal of running the most cost-effective, productive and efficient treasurer’s office in the country. I count all 11.5 million Ohioans as my bosses, and I am working hard to ensure that the Treasurer’s office gives taxpayers the return on investment and services that they deserve – especially in this challenging economy.
View Treasurer Mandel’s Top-Bottom Review Report at www.OhioTreasurer.gov.