A small group of concerned employees attended the Monday night board of education meeting to express their concerns about the potential outsourcing of their jobs.
The board heard from two members of the "blue group" who said they made significant concessions in order to save their jobs from outsourcing in 2009.
Richard Hall, a bus driver in the district for the past five years, has been a resident of Rochester since 1963.
"I love my job," Hall told the board. "Look at more than just the bottom line ... I'm not sure I could take this kind of pride with a private company."
Hall invited board members to ride along with him any day, beginning at 6:30 a.m., to see how the drivers interact with students.
The board voted 6-0 in favor of a resolution that will seek proposals for outsourcing non-instructional services including custodial, transportation, partial grounds services and parking lot attendants. The existing bargaining groups will also receive the request for proposals.
The state, through the School Aid Bill, has said that seeking competitive bids for noninstructional services valued at $50,000 or more annually is one of five "best fiscal practices" for K-12 public school districts.
According to a memo from Superintendent Fred Clarke, the district could save more than $2 million annually if it outsourced the services.
Jason Grant, a district resident and custodian in the Rochester district, echoed Hall's message. He told the board he takes pride in his job and continues to do it because of the kids.
"I am very disappointed in the direction this board is taking," Grant said.
Energy cost-saving program
The board approved a recommendation to participate in an energy cost-savings program with Energy Education Inc.
The program, developed specifically for schools, will require a new position to be created for an Energy Specialist, the salary and benefits of which will be paid by Energy Education.
During the first six months, the district will be on a "fast track" to savings and will keep every dollar of savings — an estimated $192,000. After the first six months, the district will share savings with Energy Education. The program is set to start Feb. 1; the first two months will focus on filling the position of Energy Specialist.
Energy Education estimates the district will be able to reduce it's consumption by 20 percent. Any upfront investment costs will be covered by Energy Education. The board was assured that student comfort will not be compromised in order to achieve the savings.
Budget amendment, projections
In a 6-0 vote, the board approved the 2011-12 General Fund Budget Amendment presented Monday.
The amendment shows a slight improvement in the projected bottom line due to several factors, including an increase in pupil head count and a reduction in employment benefits. The budget still anticipates a $12.4 million deficit.
The fund balance estimated for June 30, 2012 is $23.4 million or 14.5 percent.
The preliminary projections for 2012-13, however, leave a fund balance of $12.7 million or 7.8 percent. The district requires a fund balance of between 9 and 11 percent in order to avoid borrowing money to meet cash flow obligations.
The budget projections for 2012-13 were presented to the board by Dan Romzek, new superintendent for business, on his first full day on the job. Romzek replaces William Mull, who left to work with Oakland Schools.
The elimination of one-time per-pupil funding, a retirement rate increase and the cost of full-day kindergarten all contribute to next year's shortfall.
Moving forward, the district will meet with school principals and administrators will update the board on March 26, addressing potential cuts. April 16 is the target date for making a decision regarding non-instructional outsourcing. The board must adopt a budget by June 30 for the 2012-13 school year.