Lucas County's treasurer and recorder each recently took advantage of an option available to county government agencies since 1997: They transferred their departments' human resources functions to the county's personnel department.
But Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz and Recorder Jeanine Perry aren't late to the bandwagon. Rather, they're trailblazers on a path toward slowly streamlining and regionalizing government.
Instead of employing someone specifically to handle office discipline, outline job descriptions, oversee payroll, and negotiate labor contracts, among other things, Mr. Kapszukiewicz and Ms. Perry have handed off most of those functions to the county's personnel department.
That option has been available to all county government leaders since the county commissioners transformed its own human resources department into a broader personnel department 10 years ago, but the treasurer and recorder were the first to sign up.
"This allows us to do more with our current staff or, as is now the case, with less staff," Ms. Perry said.
Ms. Perry, whose office staff shrunk to 15 through a retirement last month, agreed to the change about two weeks ago. Mr. Kapszukiewicz turned over his department's human resources responsibilities about two months ago.
While Ms. Perry's move was not related to the retirement on her staff, Mr. Kapszukiewicz had an employee who handled several human resources responsibilities resign, and he did not re-fill the position.
"We're talking about tens of thousands of dollars in savings to the taxpayers," Mr. Kapszukiewicz said. "I know it's only tens of thousands instead of hundreds of thousands or millions, but if the treasur-er and recorder join in, and other departments join in, that could translate into meaningful savings for the community."
Making government smaller and more efficient has been a theme of the county commissioners, who are asking other county leaders to do more with less.
And Commissioner Ben Konop has spent his first year in office promoting the concept of regionalism, or eliminating the duplication of functions among the county's many entities.
Mr. Konop and a group of government, academic, business, labor, and humanitarian experts who are working to promote regionalism will ask all county government agencies to consider turning over at least some human resources functions to the personnel department.
"The reality of finances in Lucas County, Toledo, and just about every other municipality is that government needs to be smaller," he said.
But some government officials say such a transition might not be feasible.
Jean Atkin, the county's Common Pleas Court administrator, and Jim O'Neal, the county jail's administrator, both said their departments are too big and too unique to have their human resources functions placed under one umbrella.
County Auditor Anita Lopez employs a human resources specialist who will engage in contract negotiations with five labor unions working in her office.
She said she may have to make some decisions that are unpopular politically, and questioned whether someone from the county personnel department would support her decision.
"What happens if we're in a messy labor dispute?" Ms. Lopez asked.
"When I consider merging with another HR department, I wonder if that other person is going to follow marching orders and not worry about how it impacts the [county] commissioners."
Brian Cunningham, director of the county personnel department, said hiring employees and negotiating contracts will continue to be the responsibilities of the other department leaders.
He said his seven-member department has not been asked to negotiate labor contracts for Mr. Kapszukiewicz or Ms. Perry, and wasn't sure what his department's role would be in that instance.
Mr. Cunningham said the shift of human resources functions by other government agencies to his department will happen gradually, if at all.
"We need to show we can provide an effective service for those who have already opted in," he said.
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