Tuesday, August 28, 2001

Councilmen push bonus for cost-saving ideas

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        City workers who can come up with cost-saving ideas would get half of those savings back in the form of a bonus at the end of the yearunder a plan being pushed by two Cincinnati councilmen.

        For example, a city clerk who can figure out how to save $500 on photocopies can earn a $250 bonus. Employees who find ways to save money department-wide would share the savings.

        Councilmen Phil Heimlich, a Republican, and John Cranley, a Democrat, say their “gain-sharing” plan could some day save taxpayers millions — money that could be put toward Mr. Cranley's plan to hire 75 more police officers.

        Mr. Heimlich said there's little incentive to become more efficient when city workers see their budget as “other people's money.”

        “We want everyone who works for the city to move from a public sector mindset to a private sector mindset,” he said.

        But the plan is facing some union resistance. “I don't think it's practical,” said Bob Turner, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union that represents 2,800 city workers. “It's one of those things that sounds good and looks good, but doesn't work.”

        Mr. Turner said he doubted whether the administration would listen to any cost-saving ideasmanage ment didn't think of first.

        That's why Mr. Heimlich said the plan would set up “gain-sharing teams” — with representation from employees and managers — that would make sure every idea would get a fair hearing.

        The teams also would set up performance targets at the beginning to make sure the cost cutting doesn't come at the expense of quality service. All cuts would need city manager approval.

        Mr. Heimlich, whose gain-sharing plan in 1998 didn't get much support, said similar plans in Baltimore, Indianapolis and Charlotte, N.C., have saved millions.


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