The Town that Privatized Everything

Sandy Springs, Georgia may look like any other town in America. It has parks, roads, and beautiful places to live. But there’s one thing that separates this town from every other town: Sandy Springs privatized almost everything.

In 2005, Sandy Springs outsourced almost all functions of the city government (with the exception of police and fire) to a single company, which runs the town. That company is in charge of running all the vital functions of government, from the running the parks, to paving the roads, and even 911 calls!

The town is run very efficiently, with zero backlogs in permit requests. Call the city, and you’ll be surprised to find that you actually get a friendly person on the other line! The city has a 24/7 non-automated customer service hotline which fields about 6,000 calls per month. It also has a state of the art traffic system with cameras and a high tech command center.

When people come to Sandy Springs, they usually have no idea that it’s privatized, says Sharon Kraun, media relations director for the city. There are no signs with corporate logos or anything like that. According to Sharon, “What people can tell is that the city is well taken care of, and the residents who live here or individuals who work here, like being here and are happy with the level of service provided.”

When the project first started, the University of Georgia estimated that the city would need 828 employees. But because the town is managed by a private company, they’ve cut their workforce down to just 471 people.  Besides fire and police, the city only has eight full-time public employees.

Because of this efficiency, Sandy Springs generates huge surpluses. They have no unfunded liabilities. The city specifically decided not to use the traditional pension model – a model which has put almost every government across America in an unsustainable pension crisis. Instead, employees can choose their own 401K package to prepare for retirement, if they wish.

This has given the town of Sandy Springs lots of extra cash to work with – a surplus that they put into building for the future. According to Sharon Kraun, “The city, as a matter of policy, sets aside 25% of revenues into a reserve during each budget planning cycle. Capital improvements have been a major focus during our first eight years, with more than $185 million invested in capital infrastructure.”

This has lead to lots of improvements around the town. The city has repaved 147 miles of streets, 874 storm water projects, and built 32 miles of new sidewalks.

If part of the government performs poorly, the city can fire that company, and bid the contract to another company. In 2011, the city said farewell to the main company that was managing the vital functions of government CH2M Hill, and opted to go with another company. This saved the city over a million dollars.

Most people in Sandy Springs are happy with the change, and surrounding towns and communities are adopting the privatization model. “To date, our community has been pleased,” said Sharon, “If the polls are indicators, our founding mayor – who ran on the public private partnership platform, won two terms in office with overwhelming support.”  After the founding mayor retired, a new mayoral candidate, Rusty Paul, also ran on the commitment to keep Sandy Springs privatized, and won by a landslide.

Many cities across the world are looking at Sandy Springs.  Oliver Porter, one of the main architects behind the move to incorporate the town, has given speaking engagements all over the world, from Britain, to Iceland, Japan, and Latin America.  “I’ve been increasingly asked to give advice and lectures around the country,” said Porter in a recent interview with WND, “This is also an international model.”