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3M out, generics in, as Placer County shaves costs

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Higher-priced brand-name office supplies like 3M Post-It Notes are out as Placer County moves ahead with a more frugal spending paradigm forced by dropping revenues. Instead, county departments are being asked to follow a new policy of buying cheaper house-brand or generic-brand paper, post-its, paperclips and other supplies. Supervisors heard Tuesday from members of a cost-saving task force organized earlier this year to consider more than 200 ideas suggested by county employees to save money. Jim Boggan, a member of the purchasing subcommittee, said an in-house study indicated $76,000 in annual savings could be generated by going generic. Supervisors also accepted a recommendation by the committee to require employees to buy recycled ink-jet and laser-jet cartridges instead of new ones. The shift could mean savings of $60,000 a year. Boggan said ink cartridges were tested and there was no discernible difference between recycled cartridges purchased from Staples and brand-new ones. Limiting staff travel by tapping into new advances in Web conferencing will also be utilized by the county in the future, Brian Jagger, an automation subcommittee member, reported that an estimated $67,000 in travel and meeting costs could be avoided by teleconferencing and Web meetings. Jagger said printing costs could also be held down by using electronic or scanned copies. “The easiest way (to cut printing costs) is to not do it as much,” he said. With printing controls in place, the county could save another $80,000 during the first year, Jagger said. Tom Miller, County CEO, said supervisors should expect more ideas to save money coming forward every couple of months. The round of cost shavings drew lukewarm praise from Auburn’s Dan Sokol, vice president of the League of Placer County Taxpayers. “In the main, they’re to be applauded,” Sokol said. “There are two edges though. One is to say ‘Go for it.’ The other is ‘Why did it take you so long.” Sokol added that reducing the paper flow may save money but could be a problem in retaining transparency in government if everything is copied electronically.