Rochester Schools Will Look at Outsourcing Bus Drivers, Other Services

Board members also hear budget projections for the 2012-13 school year.

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.

Joshua Raymond January 24, 2012 at 01:54 PM
I find it difficult to support privatizing the group that has made the greatest financial sacrifice to keep their jobs while saving RCS money. Since additional income for the district is outside our control, I believe we should look at making the needed cuts in other areas. Since labor is by far the highest cost to the district, most of the cuts will need to come there. It is going to be up to the unions whether it comes in salary and benefit reductions or staff reductions. If we continue our deficit spending, we will have to borrow this year to make payroll and use up our fund balance next year, putting us in the red. I know teachers do not want to take pay or benefit cuts. Perhaps some can suggest other feasible actions our Board can take to bring our expenses in line with our income. Getting more money from the state is NOT a feasible solution as our Board can neither take that action or ensure that the legislature does. I did find another part of this very interesting. The Blue Group took significant pay cuts to save the district $2.2 million a few years ago. Now the district is saying they can still save $2 million a year by privatizing the Blue Group. Does this mean that, until recently, the district was paying about $4.2 million more per year for custodial and janitorial services than what the private sector would have paid? Are there other areas where we would see similar wage differentials?
Joshua Raymond January 24, 2012 at 02:22 PM
While I believe that RCS can benefit financially from the energy savings program as well as be more environmentally conscious, I found this article - http://www.mass.gov/ig/publ/energy_srvcs_adv.pdf - by the Office of the Inspector General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts disturbing and have sent it to the Board and Administration. We can negotiate a contract that is fair to all parties but does not tie the hands of RCS. Some highlights from the article: * The report recommends districts "Perform due diligence before conducting the procurement. Public utility companies, state agencies and others may offer free energy consulting services. Take advantage of free services before entering into costly consulting contracts. Remember, contracts paid for through energy savings are not “free” or “no cost” services." * This Office is aware that it is EEI’s practice to provide specifications and contract documents to school districts for use when procuring energy management services. We have found in several instances, that the specifications EEI provides are proprietary in nature, that is, that specifications are written so restrictively that only EEI can provide the needed services, and that the contract terms strongly protect EEI, perhaps to the detriment of the school districts. This Office recommends against the use of vendor supplied specifications as they often tend to severely limit competition while at the same time increasing the cost to the school districts.
Joshua Raymond January 24, 2012 at 02:22 PM
* The ten year projection used to market and sell the program is not guaranteed and the district is contractually obligated to pay EEI’s fee regardless of whether the district ever achieves the projected savings. * The ten year projection used to market and sell the program is not guaranteed and the district is contractually obligated to pay EEI’s fee regardless of whether the district ever achieves the projected savings. * In order to receive EEI’s guarantee, EEI clients are required to purchase software, to measure energy savings. The version of the software that EEI recommends, EnergyCAP Professional, is provided by Good Steward Software, LLC, costs $12,000 and requires an annual $2,000 renewal fee. According to some school districts, EEI informed the district that it had to use the EnergyCAP Professional software and that using other software could compromise the program and EEI’s savings guarantee....When this office contacted Good Steward with specific questions about how the software calculates savings, we were referred to EEI. When we asked EEI how clients could get answers about calculations made by the software, EEI stated that they should communicate directly with Good Steward, the software vendor...[N]ot knowing how the savings are calculated makes it impossible for this office to attest to the validity of the savings claims.
Joshua Raymond January 24, 2012 at 02:23 PM
* The EEI program requires that the district hire an “energy manager”, selected by EEI who then receives training from EEI consultants about cost-savings methods including such measures as lowering thermostats and shutting down computers, lighting and equipment when they are not being used....The energy manager is required to sign a confidentiality agreement and a covenant not to compete and is then hired for a twelve month trial period...Although energy managers are public employees, EEI’s contract precludes the energy manager from attending any user group meetings that are not sponsored by EEI to prevent the dissemination of EEI’s proprietary information. If the EEI contract is terminated, the district agrees to return all EEI materials, to discontinue the position of energy educator/manager and thereafter not to implement any part of the EEI program....If the district should ever decide to terminate EEI’s contract but wished to continue employing an energy manager for an in-house energy conservation program, the contract terms prevent this. Since many of EEI’s “proprietary measures” are also “common sense” measures, a public entity should carefully evaluate the consequences of entering into a contract that restricts their option to employ an individual to direct common sense, cost saving and energy conservation measures.
Joshua Raymond January 24, 2012 at 02:26 PM
While I do believe that RCS should look at energy cost savings programs and perhaps EEI is still the right company to partner with, we should be cautious as to what we are signing. As it is often said, the devil is in the details.
Marty Rosalik January 24, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Unless fuel and other idems have been reduced drastically I don't see the $2 million. The Blue Group gave up significant concessions. They were still more expensive that the lowest bidders, but not by $2 million. Maybe $500k but not $2M. Also note: The custodian companies that bid told the district "not to expect the buildings to be as clean" as our own staff keep them. A cheaper lower quality product is NOT a bargain. We also need to look at some other near by districts that outsourced transportation up to 5 years ago now. Some of their "vendors" significantly increased their cost upon contract rewnewal. (after busses wer sold and staff dissapated)
chris murray January 24, 2012 at 03:14 PM
I think there is something to be said for having the custodians be a part of the school district staff as they are now rather than a group that comes in and leaves. When I taught I wanted the custodian to be my friend and I saw many students develop a great friendship with the custodian as well. One more important person in their lives that can help boost their morale. Friends in other districts where they have gone to outside services constantly complained of dirty classrooms and things missing from their rooms. I think these are all important factors to consider. Sometimes the price to savings is greater than the savings itself.
Joshua Raymond January 24, 2012 at 09:23 PM
One possible way RCS could look at lowering costs would be employing high school students who are interested in entering those fields. They could work as assistants to secretaries, librarians, teachers, maintenance, or other RCS professionals. Since they would be part-time and under their parents' insurance, there would not be costs for insurance, vacation, or other benefits. It would provide valuable learning experiences for students entering those fields and perhaps entice them to stay on with RCS after high school and college graduation. Many of the assistant roles at my high school were filled by students who received fairly good pay while helping our school save money.
Derek Elkins January 24, 2012 at 11:22 PM
"I know teachers do not want to take pay or benefit cuts." No one wants to take cuts. But fact is teaching salaries remain the largest part of any school budget.
Joshua Raymond January 24, 2012 at 11:47 PM
Exactly, Derek. I'm not saying that teachers deserve less. None of us deserved less when we had pay cuts at work. It's an unfortunate economic reality.
Randy Stepp January 31, 2012 at 12:43 PM
I can't believe I have to retype all of this, oh well here goes. Governor Rick Snyder won't be happy unless he can make the rich richer & cut the pay of every working stiff in Michigan. On the subject of outsourcing...outsourcing is what got us in the mess were in, did we learn nothing? We outsourced good paying manufacturing jobs from America to mainly China & Japan, millions of American jobs have been lost. People couldn't pay their bills & homes were lost...tax revenue took a dump. Now we don't have enough money to pay our public employees. Sadly we brought this on ourselves. We all bought CHEAP imported electronics, garments & autos...and now we are paying for our actions. I am a retired auto worker who has taken the time to drive through faculty parking lots at schools, dentist & doctor offices...do I have to tell you how many Honda's or Toyota's I see there? 30 years ago 8700 people worked at my plant...today 1670 people work there...7030 jobs lost to outsourcing. We lose our jobs, we lose our homes, we lose our tax revenue, we can't pay our public employees. More people lose jobs, homes...less & less tax revenue. 2 things have brought this about...1) we are all guilty of not buying American products because they cost more...2) our unions protect lazy no good workers, you know it's true.
Randy Stepp January 31, 2012 at 12:51 PM
Only 2 things will save this country of ours...1) start buying as many American made products as possible...2) take pride in the job you have and always do your best at it. This and only this will save our country...AMERICAN PRIDE !!! On the subject of Tricky Ricky as I call the governor...he is now stealing $125 a month out of my retirement, $125 a month that I can't spend at local businesses supporting local jobs...how does this help Michigan? Simply put, it doesn't, it hurts Michigan. Less jobs, less tax revenue. If the schools outsource good paying jobs to lower paying jobs it hurts each community as a whole, it hurts tax revenue, it hurts local businesses. Somewhere, somehow this has to stop & we ALL need to stand together. This is not a democratic or republican thing...as they are one and the same...Clinton & Obama have both signed Trade Agreements that have put American workers at a strong disadvantage & republicans want us all to work for less & less money. We need a strong 3rd party to fix the mess were in, a party that represents American Workers, a party that promotes American Pride.
mary clark February 12, 2012 at 11:33 PM
I don't think it's a good idea to outsource bus drivers and custodians. They are an important part of the students school day. We do no want some rinky dink company coming in and paying minumum wage for people who have no pride in their jobs - The teachers HAVE to get off their high horses and help the district. They think they can't be touched and get anything they want. Also, how about looking at the salaries of the supervisors, managers, etc. at the board office. Some of them do not do their jobs and instead are off doing personal things on work time. No one looks at them. It's a shame that the staff who make the least amount of money are always touched.
mary clark February 26, 2012 at 08:00 PM
well said ! i agree !
a worker November 25, 2012 at 09:21 AM
Well... when it comes to out sourcing why don't you ask the teachers in Utica Community Schools how well they like having their dedicated custodians replaced by a bunch of mis-fit cleaning people ( who could care less about your children). Have you talked to them... You should. Ask them how clean their rooms were when they returned to school in the fall.Ask them... Why did the outsourced cleaning company (GCA) have to outsource their carpet cleaning? And by the way... the carpeting still looks terrible. Doesn't anyone care (or take into consideration) the fact that the children play (and lay) on that carpeting? Is it possible the former custodians cared more about the children than the BOE does? I believe they do/did. Ask the BOE the tough questions. Ask them what happened at Stevenson HS....Utica HS..... Ask them why so many of the GCA people had to be switched to another building ( Oopps... did I just say switched?) Is it possible they wanted you to believe that person got fired? Things are not what they seem. Ask the tough questions at the next board meeting. Then just sit there and watch the entire UCS BOE (and superintendent) squirm and try to push the truth under the rug. We all know the truth.... And truth WILL prevail. Be sure to Google..... GCA custodial sex crimes. You owe it to your children to see the truth.


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