Many elected officials, lobbyists, taxpayers and the media have trouble answering this question. So let's see if there is a difference.
Sharing an employee or service:
Shared Service- If a town is too small for a full time Health Officer or Recreational Director then 2 or more towns can share an employee or share the service.
Requirements: A negotiated contract for which town pays the employee, salary, benefits, and what percentage would each town pay, etc.
Consolidation - One employee, no legal review.
Shared Service- Towns that are too small to purchase a street sweeper, sewer truck, etc. can purchase equipment together to save taxpayer dollars.
Requirements: A negotiated contract on which town pays insurance, stores the equipment and who is responsible for scheduling the use of the equipment. etc.
Consolidation - The town is large enough to need and purchase the equipment
Share purchasing of supplies:
Shared Service - It is much cheaper if towns buy larger amounts of salt or gasoline. So they make contracts together for purchasing materials at a lower price.
Consolidation - Even greater savings possible when they share even larger amounts, with no legal expenses.
Shared Service - Two or more towns would form a shared Police dept. The law that allows this is called the 'Joint Meeting'. However this forces towns to create another governing body to oversee the shared police dept. The police then report to their own governing body and to the 'Joint Meeting'. (This law has many flaws and really needs to be fixed. )
Not one Joint Meeting Police shared service has been formed yet.
Consolidation - One unified Police force that can use this opportunity to innovate and create a brand new Police dept. to better serve and meet the needs of their community.
Mayors and Governing Bodies:
Shared Services - 565 Mayors, 3,000 Council/Committee members and 1,000's of negotiated contracts with ongoing legal review and associated costs.
Consolidation - Fewer than 250 Mayors, fewer than 1,500 Council/Committee members and fewer negotiated contracts. One time consolidation implementation costs which can be spread over 5 years and the State will cover 20% or the first year cost.
More on this topic on my next blog!