Publications: Cost Saving Ideas





Cost-Saving Ideas: Capital and Repair Reserve Funds for Town or County Water and Sewer Districts

When preparing your annual operating budget for a water or sewer district, set aside moneys in a capital or repair reserve fund to be used for costs for future capital projects or certain repairs. Planning today and saving incrementally can help reduce the financial impact of such expenses on your annual budget.

Establishing and funding allowable reserve funds for a specific intended purpose can smooth out spikes in both the annual budget and the real property tax levy. Saving for future capital needs can also reduce or eliminate interest and debt issuance costs.

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Cost-Saving Ideas: Capital Planning for Local Governments and School Districts

To effectively manage your local government’s capital assets, you must develop a long-term plan. The plan should address how you monitor and maintain assets and how much you can spend within your budget.

By developing a structured approach for assessing and funding capital assets, you can help avoid the unexpected, such as sudden road or building closures or cost overruns.

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Cost-Saving Ideas: Cash Management for Local Governments

Providing for sound cash management assures that investments are optimized for the best possible return for taxpayers.

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Cost-Saving Ideas: Containing Employee Health Insurance Costs

As an employer, you should always look for ways to contain health insurance costs without cutting current benefit levels.

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Cost-Saving Ideas: Credit Card Accountability - Minimizing the Risk of Error, Misuse and Fraud

When employees need to make small one-time purchases, it is often more convenient for them to pay with a credit card than to fill out a procurement request form and wait for it to be approved. This also saves time and energy for procurement staff.

The cost of this convenience is the heightened risk of inappropriate spending, such as wasteful or personal purchases. To ensure that credit cards are used only for approved and necessary expenses, local governments must have both a credit card policy and a system of internal controls in place.

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Cost-Saving Ideas: Electronic Banking

Local governments and school districts use electronic banking as a faster, easier and less expensive alternative to paper transactions.

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Cost-Saving Ideas: Establishing an Effective Fleet Management System

To ensure your fleet operation is cost effective and efficient, you should establish a management policy that each department can monitor for compliance.

Essential to this oversight is keeping good records, such as vehicle daily mileage logs, fuel usage logs, and the cumulative costs of parts, labor and overhead by a vehicle over its life.

Because your municipality’s fleet and usage are unique, use these guidelines to craft an effective fleet management system best suited to your needs.

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Cost-Saving Ideas: Evaluate the Efficiency of Your Water Delivery System

Establishing an effective water accounting system is a necessary first step in controlling water losses and reducing water system costs.

The Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established an industry goal of 10 percent for unaccounted water system losses. A water accounting system helps to track water throughout the system and identify areas that may need attention, particularly large volumes of unaccounted-for water.

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Cost-Saving Ideas: Evaluating Solid Waste Collection Options

Whether your municipality provides garbage collection services directly or by contract with a private company, citizens must receive the highest quality of service for the lowest possible cost.

To determine if your community’s system of collection is the most cost-effective, evaluate different methods and estimate the cost of each option. The local government, when considering which system of collection to use, should also consult with its legal counsel, as appropriate.

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Cost-Saving Ideas: How to Reduce Energy Costs

You can realize significant savings for your school district or local government by paying less for energy and consuming less energy. Reducing energy consumption also makes communities greener.

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Cost-Saving Ideas: Justice Court Consolidation in Villages and Towns

For some towns and villages, maintaining a justice court may pose administrative and financial challenges. Justice courts hear civil, criminal, misdemeanor and traffic cases and are responsible for imposing and collecting a wide range of fines, surcharges and civil fees. Because the financing of justice courts is a local responsibility, there is growing interest by citizens and local governments in exploring consolidation of justice courts where practicable.

In these cases, towns and villages should consider consolidating their justice courts. Benefits include:

  • maximizing services by pooling resources;
  • streamlining the court system by centralizing services; and
  • providing more qualified judges through increased competition.

This guide provides a step-by-step breakdown of the process and outlines some of the relevant issues.

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Cost-Saving Ideas: Legal Requirements

Find specific sections of the law related to capital asset management.

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Cost-Saving Ideas: Managing Workers' Compensation Costs

You must provide your employees workers’ compensation coverage as a mandatory benefit. Local governments can get insurance for workers’ compensation in one of four ways:

  • Purchase a policy from a private sector insurance carrier
  • Purchase a policy from the New York State Insurance Fund
  • Become self-insured as authorized by the Workers' Compensation Law
  • Participate in a county self-insurance plan as authorized by the Workers' Compensation Law
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Cost-Saving Ideas: Managing Your Travel and Conference Expenses

When municipal employees travel on business, such as to attend conferences and training classes, generally you may only reimburse them for authorized expenses that they actually incur and are deemed necessary. By requiring travelers to document their expenses and follow set guidelines for reimbursement, you can cut costs and mitigate the risk of fraud.

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Cost-Saving Ideas: Minimizing Unemployment Insurance Costs

You can take steps to reduce the cost of unemployment insurance, which provides short-term financial assistance to people who become unemployed through no fault of their own. The New York State Department of Labor (DOL) determines who qualifies for benefits and individual employers fund their own programs.

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Cost-Saving Ideas: Monitoring Health Insurance Premiums for Retirees

In many local governments and school districts, employees have the option to receive health insurance coverage after retirement. Among other things, the retirees may be:

  • allowed a continuation of coverage for surviving spouses or certain other eligible persons for a period of time after the eligible retiree dies.
  • required to contribute to the health insurance coverage costs.
  • offered subsidized health insurance costs by allowing the retiree to buy coverage at the group rate. 1

Containing health insurance costs should be a priority for local governments and school districts. One way to reduce health insurance costs is to pay premiums only for eligible retirees or their surviving spouses and dependents.

An audit of 20 school districts revealed ten school districts who collectively paid $239,000 in health insurance benefits for deceased or ineligible retirees.

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Cost-Saving Ideas: Overtime Planning and Management

Reducing the cost of employee salaries and benefits by even a small percentage can result in significant savings.

Employee salaries and benefits, including pension benefits, are large expenses for New York's local governments and school districts. These costs represent nearly 57 percent of annual budget expenditures, on average.

Overtime wages can significantly increase personal service1 and pension costs. For example, 8 to 30 percent of wages paid to highway employees in New York State are for overtime.

A written plan to guide the assignment of overtime hours in the most efficient and effective manner can help control overtime costs. When local governments and school districts analyze the factors that lead to overtime, they may be able to reduce or eliminate overtime through the use of alternate work schedules.

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Cost-Saving Ideas: Reviewing Your Revenue Collection Process

Improving your local government's receipt collection system may get revenue into its bank account more quickly.

Start by evaluating the costs and benefits of various revenue collection alternatives, using measures such as:

  • How long does it take to process a tax or fee payment?
  • How many total collections are being processed?
  • What is the cost per transaction?
  • How convenient is the process for residents?

By becoming more efficient, your local government can possibly increase collections, lower processing costs and increase interest earnings.

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Cost-Saving Ideas: School District Auditing - Roles, Responsibilities and Resources

As a member of a board of education (board), you’re responsible for ensuring the school budget is well managed and operations are cost effective. Auditing provides your board the best opportunity for improving fiscal management and protecting taxpayer dollars through expert and independent review.

Use this reference guide to familiarize yourself with the different roles and responsibilities in the audit process.

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Cost-Saving Ideas: School District Auditing – Audit Committee

The audit committee assists and advises the board on issues relating to the district’s internal and external audits.

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Cost-Saving Ideas: School District Auditing – External Auditor

The external auditor performs the legally required financial statement audit and renders an opinion on whether the financial statements are in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).

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Cost-Saving Ideas: School District Auditing – Internal Auditor

The internal auditor:

  • develops a risk assessment and ensures proper internal controls are in place and working;
  • performs an annual update on the risk assessment;
  • tests and evaluates one or more areas of the district’s operations periodically; and
  • prepares reports analyzing risk assessment findings and recommends changes for strengthening internal controls and reducing identified risks.

The internal auditor must report directly to the board.

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Cost-Saving Ideas: Using State Contracts to Acquire Goods or Services

In the procurement process, your goal is to obtain goods and services that are both high in quality and low in cost. However, achieving this goal can take considerable time and effort through research, solicitation and negotiation. And it may not always result in the savings you were looking for.

As an easy alternative, you can purchase goods and services under an existing State contract. This allows you to capitalize on the State's buying power and expertise, which may result in lower prices and better quality goods and services.

Many of the State contracts provide necessities for any local government or school district, such as awards for road salt and fuels, vehicles and heavy equipment, food and furniture, computer hardware and software, and much more.

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