Budgets by their very nature are defined by scarcity. When it comes to the operations of municipalities, managing operating budgets becomes especially difficult due to the multitude of services and resources involved in these operations. Cities and counties, in particular, are expected to perform at a level that keeps residents and local businesses happy while creating an environment that begets economic growth.
Municipal operating budgets account for many things, including technology, infrastructure, personnel and investment in new processes and plans. When looking at any operating budget the question should best be framed as “where can I save money?” as opposed to “where will I have to cut funding?”
Today, even the most well-run cities and counties across the U.S. are focused on cost containment. When looking at your budget, a great place to find savings, and even to recover excess expenditure, could be in your telecom expenses.
It can be easy to become complacent in rates over time. Cities and counties have a multitude of items and initiatives to manage, and reviewing telecom tariffs isn’t likely to be at the top of the list.
A rate quoted 3, 5 or even 10 years ago may have been good at the time, but due to the many changing variables in telecom contracts, it may not be anymore. Even if a competitive bidding process was used initially, it is likely something has changed that could allow you to obtain a lower rate or better value through new or upgraded services.
Due to the complicated nature of telecom contracts and tariffs, it can be difficult to identify where there is opportunity for better savings. Additionally, there can be complicating circumstances, and many cities and counties just don’t have staff with the time or expertise in the telecom industry to stay on top of the changing industry.
It’s impossible to know without a telecom audit, but having your telecom and cellular bills reviewed for correctness is an easy first step. A simple review will give you an indication of whether you are over-paying or not.
Key Areas for Potential Savings
In our past experience with cities and counties we have found several critical areas where there can be telecom and cellular savings:
- Erroneous billing (incorrect zones or rates, surcharges, component charges, even taxes)
- Rate changes or elimination of services (more cost effective rates, unnecessary lines/circuits or features)
- Local and long distance rates
- Opportunity to upgrade service or bandwidth at minimal or no additional cost
- Upgrade from services that are obsolete or no longer supported (it can be costly to run old technologies).
Cellular: Cellular is unique because of the ever-changing services and rates offered, in addition to the technical knowledge required to understand service differentials and associated pricing structures. There are often circumstances where configuring accounts in a more effective manner will produce savings.
Benefits are Immediate and Long Lasting
When incorrect or unnecessary telecom contract expenditures are fixed, you can realize both immediate and long lasting benefits.
In the event you have been overpaying for telecom costs or services, you may be entitled to a refund. In the past we have seen cities and even small counties receive refunds in the tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Going forward you can negotiate a new telecom contract that will save your city or county thousands, possibly tens of thousands of dollars per year (perhaps more for a large city). With these savings (or refunded cash) your municipality can allocate resources to more important services than your own telecom costs.
Valerie Paquin is manager of energy services at Cost Control Associates. Since 1999 she has developed her utility-cost expertise for energy, water/sewer, telecom and waste removal. She earned the designation of project executive in 2012. Valerie received her ABA in accounting from State University of New York-Adirondack. Learn more.