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Superintendent Tony Brads said it's too early to weigh pros and cons of outsourcing some jobs.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Botetourt County Superintendent Tony Brads told his school board Thursday that the district might be able to save money by contracting with firms to provide custodians, cafeteria workers and bus drivers.
Brads said it is much too early to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of outsourcing maintenance, food service or transportation.
“It will still cost us a pile of money, but it could transfer the employee costs,” he said. “But whether you are getting the same quality is the question.”
Brads said the district’s top priority is the classrooms. The county school system employs 745 people, including 415 certified educators, 32 administrators and 298 support staffers.
“These people are essential. Don’t get me wrong,” Brads said of the service workers. “But if there are limited dollars, you’ve got to put those dollars where the children are.”
The topic came up during a school board work session that focused on budget topics that need to be considered in advance of delving deeper into forming the next fiscal year’s budget.
Roanoke schools in 2009 became the first in the Roanoke Valley to outsource transportation, and Roanoke County is now exploring a similar arrangement.
During a recent meeting of about 40 division superintendents, the topic of outsourcing came up. Brads reported that those who have tried contracting for nonprofessional services have experienced mixed results. More have opted to outsource maintenance than any other service, he said, and those superintendents suggested phasing it in at one or two schools, which is what Roanoke County is doing this year.
Brads ran down a list of increases that will need to be worked into the district’s budget. Payments to the Virginia Retirement System for teachers are expected to rise about 25 percent. The school system currently pays 11.66 percent of a teacher’s salary, he said, which is estimated to rise to 14.5 percent the next fiscal year under the state’s plan to correct years of short-changing the pension plan. (Teachers pay an additional 5 percent.)
Other new expenses include the need to replace the roof on Lord Botetourt High School, estimated at $900,000, and the impact of the Affordable Care Act’s provision that health benefits be extended to employees working 30 hours a week. Brads said they are determining whether any substitutes or coaches qualify.
The school division’s current operating budget is $48.03 million, and it spends an additional $6.53 million paid for by state, federal and regional funding, grants and cafeteria revenue, according to summaries provided by Brads. The division projects an average daily membership of 4,825 students for the current school year.
Raises were also brought up. School board member Michael Beahm asked Brads to look at ways to show teachers they are valued.
“Nothing is quite exciting as cash money, but I don’t know how we get there,” Beahm said.
Board member Scott Swortzel approached it differently. “We need to look at every position and its value and see what the position brings to the whole,” he said. When pressed by other board members to explain what he meant, Swortzel questioned the need for counselors and “ketchup openers.”
Chairwoman Ruth Wallace defended the need for counselors, and Brads explained that using part-timers to pull cafeteria duty in elementary schools is an economical solution to meeting a state requirement that teachers have a duty-free lunch. Still, he said, all positions should be under review.
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