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Escanaba district looks at ways to save

Contracting school services debated

May 17, 2012
By Jason Raiche - staff writer ( , Daily Press

ESCANABA - The Escanaba School Board has continued discussion of potential cost savings through contracting non-instructional services for the upcoming 2012-13 school year. The discussion took place at a recent budget workshop.

At the workshop, the board reviewed the current budget assumptions, but began looking over information on what money could potentially be saved through contracting services in four areas: custodial, transportation, secretarial/clerical services and food service. The board is facing a potential $994,000 shortfall in next year's budget.

"The goal of these special board meetings has been to simply give information the board has requested," explained Escanaba Superintendent Michele Lemire. "Boards set policy and budgets and these next months will be challenging for them, and so they need accurate information from which to base their decisions."

Lemire said the district recently sent out a request for proposal (RFP) for custodial services to figure out how much money the district could potentially save. Two bids were received and opened on May 7. The first was from downstate D.M. Burr, a company the board had explored potential services with for the 2011-12 school year. The other response came from Commercial Sanitation Management Services (CSM), also from downstate.

"The current cost of custodial services is $669,936.96," said Lemire. "The D.M. Burr bid for 52 weeks of service was $495,137.28 and adds 4.3 custodians. The D.M. Burr alternate bid for 50 weeks of service was $480,261 and adds 4.3 custodians."

CSM provided a 52-week bid of $422,444.16, which would add 1.05 more custodians. The projected savings under both company's bids range from $174,799.68 to $247,492.80.

"Should the board opt to go with a company, the board would need to pay out $73,520 in sick leave pay to custodians, which would result in less savings for one year only," said Lemire. "The board could also choose to keep the same number of employees, rather than adding more, to increase savings."

Lemire said the district is also participating in a consortium of school districts through the Delta-Schoolcraft ISD to put out a transportation RFP, which was slated to go out Wednesday. Bids are due May 30. Lemire said the board currently does not have any data on how much money could potentially be saved from contracting transportation services.

An RFP for secretarial/clerical services has also been drafted and will be sent out soon.

Lemire said the board agreed that at this time it has enough information to request not sending out for bids in the food service department. She said the food service department has its own budget and gets much of its revenue through federal sources. An RFP for services would need to be approved by the state prior to being sent out - a time-consuming process. According to Lemire, currently the district's food service program is profitable, and these profits may be used in part to assist in paying for other food-service related workers, equipment, or supplies for lunch rooms.

"If a company was used, then the profits would go to that company, and not to the school systems operations," explained Lemire, which is why the board decided against pursuing contracted services in the food service department.

During the meeting, it was noted that contracting services could save the district in paying retirement and insurance costs. Any contracted service would leverage a type of management fee.

"It was also noted that if the board lays off instructional staff, the district cannot bring them back in any capacity, resulting in a loss of services," explained Lemire. "However, if the board lays off non-instructional staff, the district may bring staff back in some fashion through the private company. Services are not lost."

The board discussed that if the district was forced to make cuts, should the state not come through with any relief, difficult decisions will need to be made.

"The district has cut back over time, and tried to protect students from these cuts - but at this point, all cuts will hurt," said Lemire.

The next regular school board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m., Monday, May 21, in the Escanaba Middle School Courtyard Room.



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