Tag Archives: South Carolina

Sometimes, Public-Private Partnerships Can Go Too Far

Source: Larry Kaplan, Nonprofit Quarterly, May 4, 2015

Sometimes, public-private partnerships go too far in one direction. In this case, a government agency was criticized for placing too much of its authority in the hands of a partner nonprofit that was much less accountable and transparent with how it spent the public’s money. South Carolina state auditors called out that state’s commerce department for setting up a nonprofit organization with the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League to appropriate $5 million to offset the destruction of wetlands at a site that is now a Boeing factory near Charleston. The Savannah Morning News reports that the auditors ruled that Commerce failed to provide adequate oversight for the nonprofit’s complex dealings. Saying that they “could not determine the benefit of creating a nonprofit entity to accomplish this particular purpose,” they advised the agency not to take similar action in the future. The audit report said that the nonprofit spent $5.3 million when “only $743,000 was needed to buy or preserve property to meet federal requirements to offset the loss of wetlands caused by building the plant.” The funding was part of a $160 million incentive package the state offered a precursor to Boeing to attract it in 2004. It is now a plant for its 787 Dreamliners, employing about 6,000 workers.
S.C. watchdog questions agency, nonprofit spending on wetlands
Source: Susanne M. Schafer, Savannah Morning News, April 29, 2015

State auditors faulted the South Carolina Commerce Department on Wednesday for setting up a nonprofit organization with the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League to disperse $5 million to offset the destruction of wetlands at what is now Boeing’s manufacturing site near Charleston. The Legislative Audit Council said Commerce didn’t provide enough oversight for the nonprofit’s complex dealings and advised the agency not to take similar action in the future.

Columbia City Council passes measure to avoid privatization of water, sewer system

Source: Kelly Petty, ColaDaily.com, February 17, 2015

Columbia City Council unanimously passed a measure Tuesday night to allow City Manager Teresa Wilson to receive proposals to make the city’s system efficient without turning over control to a private company. Council convened within the past week and brought back a resolution that would keep privatization of the water and sewer system off the table as city officials try to repair public utilities. ….. The new directive eliminates the need for city staff to review responses from private firms that desire to sell, lease, give up control or seek public-private financing and debt refinancing of the system. Council instead directed Wilson to look at proposals that focus on advanced technology and techniques, new equipment and supplies as well as management and improvements that would tighten up the water and sewer system to meet Environmental Protection Agency standards. Any of these solutions could be established through a private-public partnership. ….

Firestorm of protest hits Columbia city council over possible privatization of city water, sewer
Source: John Monk, thestate.com, February 10, 2015

In fiery speeches to Columbia city council members, more than a dozen Columbia residents Tuesday night denounced any effort by council to allow a private company buy or lease the city’s water and sewer systems. … The city’s water and sewer system would be a rich prize for a private company. With some 144,000 regular household and commercial customers paying the city $124 million each year, a private company could not only use some of the annual income for its own profits, it could also leverage the revenue streams to make more money. Private company takeovers often involve layoffs to staff and slashing quality to ramp up profits. No one spoke for privatization. The matter had become an issue only recently after The State newspaper reported late last month that city officials were formally exploring the possibility of selling or leasing the city’s water and sewage system to a private, for-profit company. …

Privatization of S.C.’s welfare to work program questioned

Source: Jeremy Borden, Post & Courier, August 15, 2014

In 2012, when South Carolina privatized the core of a program designed to get people off welfare and into a job, officials hoped to streamline the process of getting people off state assistance and into paying work. So the state Department of Social Services turned to two large contractors, Kentucky-based ResCare Inc. and Virginia-based Maximus Inc. to help those on state or federal poverty assistance get a job. But critics question why spending the additional dollars for outside companies was necessary, and one state senator said that taxpayers are getting the wrong end of the privatization deal. As the Haley administration has touted its ability to get more than 20,000 people on welfare into jobs during its tenure, something highlighted in a recent campaign ad, concerns have been raised about the program. Critics stated the department’s efforts are more about numbers than results and cloud the real picture of poverty in the Palmetto State. … ResCare’s advocacy fund donated $1,000 in 2010 and $500 in 2011 to Gov. Nikki Haley’s campaign. Maximus donated $3,500 in 2010 to the Republican Governors Association South Carolina PAC and $1,000 to Haley’s campaign in 2011 before the contracts were awarded, according to state ethics commission filings. … ResCare has received $10.5 million in state contracts and Maximus $3.2 million, officials said. ResCare referred all questions to DSS and a Maximus spokesperson did not return a request for comment. … Base contracts for the contractors were $1.4 million per region with a possibility of a total of $2 million if they met performance metrics – numbers of people in a job for a longer period of time. …

U.S. Department of Education Announces Resolution of South Carolina Virtual Charter Schools Civil Rights Investigation

Source: U.S. Department of Education, Press Release, March 20, 2014

The U.S. Department of Education announced today that its Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has entered into an agreement with South Carolina Charter School District to ensure compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1972 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act for students with disabilities in the District.

OCR initiated a compliance review in 2013 to assess whether the seven Internet-based public charter schools that serve more than 8,700 students who live throughout the state of South Carolina provide equal access to persons with disabilities, including students and parents. Specifically, OCR’s investigation sought to determine whether persons with disabilities had an equal opportunity to access each school’s website and online learning environment. ….

OCR determined that the schools’ websites and online learning environments were not readily accessible to persons with disabilities, including those who required assistive technology to access the Internet. The most frequent concerns were lack of alternative text attributes on buttons, especially on video controls; lack of synchronized captioning; inaccessible PDFs; and animations that were not fully labeled. Additionally, some materials provided by third party vendors were inaccessible. These problems prevent persons with disabilities, particularly those with visual, hearing, or manual impairments, or who otherwise require the use of assistive technology to access the website or the online learning environment in an equally effective and equally integrated manner as persons without a disability.

South Carolina Charter School District is the local educational agency for 24 charter schools in South Carolina. Seven of these schools are Internet-based and deliver instruction completely online. These schools include Palmetto State e-Cademy, Provost Academy South Carolina, South Carolina Virtual Charter School, South Carolina Calvert Academy, South Carolina Connections Academy, South Carolina Whitmore School, and Cyber Academy of South Carolina….

Case Study: Ousting the Outsourcing Misconception

Source: SAFEbuilt, March 2014

There are many myths about the complex subject of privatization. This feature article highlights the common misconceptions of privatization, and the potential benefits, as they relate to the “new normal” environment for local government.

Using the analogy of a lemonade stand, SAFEbuilt, a private provider of community development services, helps to squeeze out truth from fiction.
City of Troy, Michigan
Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Centennial, Colorado
City of Roswell, Georgia
Powder Springs, Georgia
Bay Village, Ohio
Leesburg, Virginia

Taking Pay for Success Financing to the South

Source: Joe Waters & Megan Golden, Stanford Social Innovation Review, SSIR blog, January 21, 2014

An analysis of the viability of pay-for-success initiatives in South Carolina shows that this new type of financing can work in more rural, “red” states. …

We’ve heard a lot about social impact bonds and pay for success financing (PFS), where philanthropic funders and private investors provide capital for social programs, and government pays only if the initiative achieves agreed-upon outcomes. Most PFS activity has been in “blue” states with large urban populations, such as New York and Massachusetts, but many observers have wondered whether PFS financing would also appeal to “red” states.

Based on our experience in South Carolina, the answer is yes.

The state has taken steps to pursue PFS financing by issuing a request for information at the end of 2013—the first in the South and the first by a red state. If the PFS transaction is completed, it will likely be the first to focus on health outcomes. On behalf of the Institute for Child Success (ICS), we conducted the feasibility study that informed the state’s effort. Both our analysis and the response it generated have convinced us that PFS is a viable way to improve health outcomes in the South, in nonurban areas, and in conservative states.

Fields of dreams / A closer look at publicly financed stadiums

Source: Derek Prall, American City and County, January 21, 2014

…Publicly funded stadiums are a contentious issue, with proponents harping on the positive economic impact sports stadiums can bring, while critics say public funding can be better spent.

Santa Clara was lambasted recently in the media for the deal on the 49ers new stadium, which will cost around $1.3 billion. The city will kick in $116 million in public funds, but the “private” funding will come from a new entity, the Santa Clara Stadium authority, borrowing $950 million. Should something go wrong, the taxpayers will likely take the hit….

When the Cincinnati Bengals, who for decades shared a stadium with the Cincinnati Reds, put pressure on the county to build a new stadium, the county agreed to pick up the $400 million tab. But after a decade of belt tightening and budget slashing, the deal was labeled “one of the worst professional sports deals every struck by a local government,” by The Wall Street Journal….

…Long found that by 2001, the public sector, including local, state and federal governments had paid approximately $16 billion to participate in the construction of the 100 major league ballparks, stadiums and arenas currently in use. Long warns that publicly financed stadiums can be financially treacherous, and even those where private interests share in the funding, costs can quickly spiral out of control due to complex development and leasing agreements….

Charleston County school bus operator suing Teamsters union

Source: John McDermott, Post and Courier, January 9, 2014

The company that runs Charleston County school bus fleet is suing the Teamsters, alleging the union is trying to claim jobs not covered under their contract. Durham School Services LP cited unfair labor practices in a complaint filed in federal court in Charleston this week. The Teamsters Local 509 of West Columbia represents the company’s 400 Charleston County drivers and driver aides, who monitor students during field trips and other outings. The dispute flared up over the summer, when the union filed two grievances. The Teamsters said Durham was violating their five-year labor agreement by using nonunion employees and contractors to fix bus seats and clean the 350 vehicles….

Major ambulance service shuts down without notice in six states

Source: M. Alex Johnson, Staff Writer, NBC News, December 9, 2013

A private ambulance service that transported more than a half-million patients a year in six states abruptly shut down without explanation, leaving dozens of cities and towns scrambling for medical transportation options this week without a word of warning.

First Med EMS, based in Wilmington, N.C., served hospitals and other medical facilities in more than 70 municipalities in Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. It operated under the names TransMed, Life Ambulance and MedCorp, boasting in publicity materials: “We take pride in our performance and the safety of our patients. We refuse to compromise on this.”

First Med’s website was inaccessible Tuesday, and calls to corporate offices either reached disconnected lines or weren’t answered. Company workers said in Facebook posts and tweets that they were told the corporation had declared bankruptcy, but no bankruptcy documents were yet on file in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

First Med was the largest EMS service in Ohio, where at least 1,500 paramedics and other medical workers were left jobless in Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo, Cincinnati, Youngstown and numerous smaller towns.

First Med also provided services in Richmond, Norfolk and Newport News in Virginia, as well as Wilmington, N.C.

Much of First Med’s business was “non-emergent” transportation — such as taking dialysis patients to their weekly treatments and shuttling nursing home patients to doctors’ appointments — and officials in some cities said there should be little impact on patient treatment. …

Out of Control: The Coast-to-Coast Failures of Outsourcing Public Services to For-Profit Corporations

Source: In The Public Interest, December 2013

From the abstract:
Eager for quick cash, state and local governments across America have for decades handed over control of critical public services and assets to corporations that promise to handle them better, faster and cheaper. Unfortunately for taxpayers, not only has outsourcing these services failed to keep this promise, but too often it undermines transparency, accountability, shared prosperity and competition – the underpinnings of democracy itself. As state legislatures soon reconvene, policy makers likely will consider more outsourcing proposals. Out of Control: The Coast-to-Coast Failures of Outsourcing Public Services to For-Profit Corporations serves as a cautionary tale for lawmakers and taxpayers alike.

Out of Control: The Coast-to-Coast Failures of Outsourcing Public Services to For-Profit Corporations