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.