LUCAS County commissioners acted appropriately this week when they voted not to increase building inspection fees. That would have had a negative effect on the already moribund local residential and commercial construction industry. But it may be possible for the cash-strapped county, as well as Toledo and other local communities, to save money by merging their inspection services.
Governments at every level are squeezed by declining tax revenues. The only solutions are to decrease expenses or increase revenues. Boosting revenue by raising taxes can be a dicey proposition. Many business and individual taxpayers already are so pinched by the recession that they believe even a small tax or fee increase will push them over the edge.
As a result, they squawk at the suggestion that they pay more, predicting dire results and insisting government look elsewhere. And they may be right.
The county commissioners got that message loud and clear when they considered raising some inspection fees and tacking on new fees in an attempt to erase about $136,000 in Building Regulations Department red ink.
After listening to about 15 local builders blast the proposal as an economic-development killer, Commissioners Pete Gerken, Tina Skeldon Wozniak, and Ben Konop voted against the measure. Instead, they agreed to look more aggressively at ways to consolidate county and city inspection departments.
Previous attempts to engage Toledo officials in consolidation talks received little interest. But a new mayor - with a huge budget hole to fill - is more receptive. In any event, it's worth the effort.
No matter what shape a merger might take, the likely savings would be small. But successfully merging inspection departments could lead to the consolidation of other departments, and individual small economies can add up to big savings when creative leaders are motivated by necessity.
The necessity is clear. Now it's up to county and city leaders to provide the creativity.