Schools to consider privatized services
by Megan Thornton
mthornton@cherokeetribune.com
March 24, 2013 12:00 AM | 5704 views | 10 10 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CANTON — The Cherokee County School District may consider privatizing its custodial and grounds services following years of financial shortfall and continually increasing health insurance costs.

During Thursday’s work session, Superintendent Dr. Frank Petruzeilo said the cost for insuring non-certified employees under the state health benefit plan has gone from $2.9 million in 2008-09 to $7.6 million in 2012-13.

For 2013-14, projections reach $10.1 million followed by $12.7 million in 2014-15, according to the Georgia Department of Community Health.

The costs have grown despite the fact that CCSD has 123 fewer non-certified employees than it did in 2008, with a total of 760.

Petruzielo said the district has used a consulting firm to determine cost-cutting options.

“I don’t like the options and certainly the employees are not going to like the options,” Petruzielo said. “But at this time, we are having to move forward at least to get good data for the board to have in front of them when a policy decision is to be made.”

Next week, the district will issue a request for a proposal to private companies for custodial and grounds services, which are presently provided to 239 school district employees.

Petruzielo made clear during the work session this is a “fact-finding” measure, but noted making the recommendation is “quite possible” if the RFP produces apparent cost-effective results.

“Several school systems statewide are having to do the same thing and some of them are going well beyond custodial positions to include lots of other functions,” he said.

Petruzielo said a recommendation could be made to the board as early July regarding grounds services and as early as January 2014 for custodial services.

On a related note, Petruzielo said the school district is in the process of developing an alternative health plan and/or health plan contribution model that could begin as early as January 2014 as an alternative to the state health benefit plan.

Petruzielo said the district will continue to develop other cost-containment models under consideration by staff, including modifications in staff size and alternative work hour/work day programs.

The options will be discussed further at the April 18 work session.

“These are things we believe need to happen in a timely manner for us to be able to present the board with a balanced budget for next year,” Petruzielo said.

Petruzielo said both custodial and grounds workers are highly competent and have performed quality work over the last several years and the move shouldn’t be considered an insult to the affected employees. He said about 85 percent of district operating budget is spent on employee salaries and benefits.

“This is not about an evaluation of their performance,” he said. “This is about not being able to afford to continue with the health plan that they have enjoyed for 20-25 years.”

Similar to last year, district officials will also likely have to use a number of other cost-cutting measures, including furloughs, increased class sizes, consolidated bus routes, leaving vacant administrative positions unfilled and delaying salary step increases.

“Now, we must make even more painful recommendations and decisions with the understanding that our primary mission — and our primary funding obligation—has to be teaching and learning,” Petruzielo said.

Following Thursdays’ meeting, district spokeswoman Barbara Jacoby sent an e-mail to all potentially impacted employees notifying them of the potential action and a meeting next week with all head custodians and principals to discuss the RFPs.

Board member Kelly Marlow asked whether the district might contact other insurers to provide alternate plans.

“Quite frankly, we’re not in a strong position to go out and create a health plan for 200 custodians,” Petruzielo said, noting the demographics of these employees tend to be more difficult to insure than teachers as they are generally older and have more health issues.

Petruzielo said he plans to provide the board with the best and most fair options in coming months.

Comments
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county worker
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March 28, 2013
Frank Petruzeilo,

How would you feel if you go to work each and every day do the best you know how to do and one day are told you may lose your job...I think you should consider cutting out people who are double dipping retired from school and still working as consultants and people who have a big title but do nothing. Our custodian most work very hard only have one house and most have only one car if they lose their lively hood how will they pay for this...Other people with school district who make more money have two house a winter house and a summer house and many cars if they lose one house or one car they will still survive but for many of these custodians this is it for them...Make cuts but not with custodians...Cut out some of the vice principals when I went to school we had one principal and one vice principal not many of each...Why do we need so many...I say lets keep our custodians and give them a raise...Not get rid of them...
cherokee parent
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March 28, 2013
I believe the board should be looking into all the assistants they have. Some of the assistants have assistants. One of these positions has just been opened and they are seeking to hire for it now. Cutting Custodial and Grounds crew isn't going to make much of a dent since their salaries aren't that much. As for the healthcare cost... Thank you Obama for "lowering every households healthcare cost by 2,500 dollars". How is that working out... Layoffs I guess that saved these poor Custodians and ground crew people alot.
onaroll1971
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March 28, 2013
Wow! If this idea goes any further, I will be taking my kids out of this school system to home school them. Do you think a privatized company with a majority of illeagals will comply with employment rules? I seriously doubt it. Will they be finger printed, FBI checkd and so on? How will they be controlled? This is nothing but a big liability! This burns me up to no end!!
Cherokee Parent
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March 26, 2013
Mr. Petruziello - instead of out sourcing the custodial and grounds staff which will have very little impact on the budget. Lets look at something that would have a much greater impact.

Lets get rid of non-essential programs such as elective classes, athletics, band and chorus. Also consider cutting the number of former CCSD employees who are now "consultants" for the school system.

This will result in some huge savings and it will allow the schools to focus on teaching kids things they will actually need such as math and science.

However, this approach will take courage because in means eliminating dozens, maybe hundreds of certified employees.

Related to this issue, maybe you have shown some restraint with the construction of unnecessary new schools over the past ten years. The decision to build so many new schools has saddled this county with enormous debt.

So please forgive me for not applauding your very questionable decision to out source jobs when there are other more effective budget cutting measures available.
anonymous
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March 26, 2013
The children NEED electives, athletics, band, chorus and ROCT. For some students, these are the ONLY reasons why they are in school and doing well. Cutting what you call non-essential programs is far worse for our students than the out sourcing.

I do agree with finding better ways to cut costs, but not at the expense of the children.
county worker
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March 28, 2013
I agree with the above cherokee county parent they know who does what I think ths is a votng matter....
Bug Fuzz
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March 25, 2013
Dr. Petruziello should be lauded for having taxpayers in mind by reducing expenses in the non-professional ranks under his control.The same approach at all levels of government should be considered. The only thing we have to hold sacred is the student teacher ratio. That is where the formal education for our children originates. Thank you Dr. Petruziello for taking a firm stand.
Future unemployed
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March 30, 2013
Do you realize that the 230 future unemployed school "workers" had to be fingerprinted and pass background checks before being considered qualified to work near your county's children? Do you realize that close to 100% of the current school workers that are subject to losing their jobs all live and pay taxes in Cherokee County? Do you realize that since the city of Marietta has privatized their school custodial needs, they have experienced a lot of workers not showing up for work with-out calling in to make their $8.00 an hour? Do you realize that the vast majority of the cheap labor workers will not be native Cherokee County residents and most will not use English as their first language? Be very careful what you wish and pray for - you might just deservedly get it!
florida mom
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March 24, 2013
Boy am I glad I don't live here. And if I did I would take my kids out if these schools. So think about it...you get rid of employees that you can "control" ie...run back ground checks, interview, etc. And give it to someone who may hire any Joe blow off the street or just out of jail to come to your schools where your kids are. You would have no idea the people these "private" companies use. Hell no is what I say. I can just see something happening to a poor child because of the county's selfish move! Not cool, not cool at all.
NolongerFloridaDad
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March 26, 2013
I disagree Florida Mom. I've been down there. Things are much worse than here. I applaud Dr. P for looking outside the box in order to maintain the quality of education in our county.
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