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School district plans look into privatizing

Board member calling it ‘long-range opportunity’

June 25, 2009
In order to reduce districtwide costs and deal with this year’s budget shortfalls, the Lee County School Board is considering a privatization of its janitorial services, a move also being considered by Collier and Manatee counties. A presentation on cost savings related to privatization was delivered to School Board Vice Chairman Steve Teuber in Tampa Bay two weeks ago. Teuber later asked Superintendent James Browder to research the possibility of privatizing custodial services because, he said, as a board member, his main concern is educating children and not managing a plethora of district services. “There are considerable dollars to be saved by going private,” he said. “If I could, I would privatize food service, janitorial services and transportation. There isn’t a system big enough to handle it.” According to Browder, the district could not consider privatizing custodial services for another three years because it recently approved a long-term contract with the Support Personnel Association of Lee County. “This is a long-range opportunity. This isn’t something we could do right now,” he said. “Mr. Teuber has given us an opportunity to think long-term.” Browder said the district considered privatizing custodial services when he was first made superintendent, but the board did not move forward with the option. Privatizing the services today could save anywhere from $2 million to $3 million, but some district employees would lose their jobs and health benefits, he said. “There are some positives, but there are way more negatives than positives. It is something I’ll put together information on,” said Browder. The Lee County School District is expecting a budget shortfall between $25 million and $45 million, and it is working this summer to put together a 2010 budget. The school board will not meet again until July 29. Members of the Collier County School Board have been debating the cost savings associated with the privatizations of custodial services, which it estimates will save the district $3.2 million, according to a presentation to the board May 13. Hundreds of local agencies were notified of the bidding process and 28 obtained bidding documents. The Collier School Board is now recommending the use of GCA Services Group to provide custodial services for a cost of $9.5 million in 2009. The district is also anticipating yearly capitals costs valued at $200,000 for new custodial equipment. Besides privatizing custodial services, Collier County is also reducing its number of pool teachers and cutting elementary media assistants and clerical assistants to combat a $19.5 million deficit.


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