By John Laidler, Boston Globe
Four area cities will be helping pave the way for municipal governments across the state to deliver their services more efficiently, through a state grant.
Amesbury, Lowell, Somerville, and Woburn, along with Worcester, were the joint recipients of a $373,000 funding award through the state’s new Community Innovation Challenge grant program.
With Lowell serving as the lead community, the five cities will use the money to help develop a “performance management’’ system that all Massachusetts municipalities can use.
Lowell enlisted the four other communities in the grant effort because all five have taken an interest in performance management, which refers to efforts to operate efficiently, according to Michael Herbert, Lowell’s data management analyst.
Amesbury, Lowell, and Somerville all actively employ a data-driven performance management system known as Stat, while Woburn has initiated a pilot Stat program. The four cities and Worcester also belong to The New England StatNet, a group of municipalities that meets quarterly to discuss performance management strategies.
“We are really pleased that they selected us, and we think we can have a positive impact on other communities in Massachusetts in moving toward performance management,’’ Herbert said of the grant.
In this area, Innovation Challenge grants were also awarded to the Manchester Essex Regional School District and to Andover.
Twenty eight projects overall were awarded a combined $4 million through the Community Innovation Challenge grant program, the Patrick administration announced March 16. The program, established as part of this year’s budget, is intended to support regionalization and other initiatives to help local governments become more cost-efficient.
Herbert said that through their $370,000 grant, Lowell and its four partner cities will seek to establish common cost formulas that municipalities could use in comparing what they spend on a particular function with what other communities are spending.
He said currently it is difficult for communities to compare notes on what a particular service costs because they do not always include the same criteria. For example, in calculating the expense of filling a pothole, one community might include the cost of providing benefits to the employees involved, while another might not.
Herbert said enabling cities and towns to make “apples to apples’’ comparisons could facilitate more sharing of information on how best to reduce costs.
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