District mulls custodial work

>School Board looking at outsourcing option

MILFORD – Outsourc­ing custodial work could come with big savings for the School District, but there could also be big drawbacks.

At the School Board’s request, William Coo­per, head of the district’s building and grounds department, researched the options for custodial outsourcing. He went over three options at the board’s meeting on Mon­day, Aug. 15, ranging from a pilot program of one building for one year to a comprehensive one that includes custodial and maintenance tasks for all buildings, as well as care of athletic fields and snow removal.

Faced with operating budgets that were reject­ed two years in a row, the School Board is looking at ways to cut costs, and potential districtwide net savings through outsourc­ing would be substantial – $450,000.

And there are other benefits, Cooper said, in­cluding the fact that staff­ing issues and equipment costs would be taken over by the outside company.

Disadvantages include the effect on current staff of about 23 workers.

Many of them live in town, Cooper said, and there could be a loss in

the sense of pride and commitment from district employees. Also, the out­side company wouldn’t necessarily use local busi­nesses for their supplies, wouldn’t have a thorough knowledge of the school buildings, and any work not included in the con­tract could be expensive.

Cooper also researched other school districts and found mixed results.

The ConVal district has outsourced work at some of its schools, and officials "think it’s a great thing," Cooper said – ben­eficial in both cost and quality of service.

The Winnisquam dis­trict outsourced facili­ties management for five years, but went back to in-house, though it con­tinues outsourcing plow­ing, mowing and HVAC maintenance. Local dis­tricts – Amherst, Hollis- Brookline and Wilton – use mostly in-house cus­todians.

"People tell me in an emergency, you pay through the nose," Coo­per said, "and the district would be put in a queue and wait."

Also, there could be diminishing returns over the years, he said, as a company looks at its costs and tries to cut back on services.

On the other hand, "There are some re­ally good companies out there," Cooper said.

The issue will be on the board’s agenda for its next meeting in September, Schools Superintendent Robert Marquis said.