Bids show Ann Arbor school district could save $2.4M by privatizing bus drivers, custodians
If the Ann Arbor school board accepts the lowest bids from private companies vying to replace the district’s custodians, maintenance workers and bus drivers, it could save nearly $2.4 million a year.
But whether the district’s administration will recommend the moves - or the board will approve them - remains to be seen. Administrators will present their 2010-11 school year budget recommendations at the end of March.
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
District administrators walked the board through the bids submitted by a variety of firms in each category Wednesday night. Board members asked questions about the numbers, but didn’t discuss whether they would support privatization of any or all of the three areas.
Administrators solicited bids in the three areas as part of the process of finding between $14 million and $18 million in savings in next year’s budget.
In all three of the areas, the district asked for base bids that would keep the wages the same for any current district employees who transferred over to a new company. The base bid also asked for a comparable health plan.
The biggest savings would come from changes in retirement. Private companies don’t have to pay into the state’s retirement system like the district does - a cost of nearly 20 percent of a person’s earnings.
In each area, the district also asked for alternatives from the companies that would lift the wages and benefits restrictions. The savings grew rapidly in those bids, said Robert Allen, the district’s deputy superintendent for operations.
School board Trustee Susan Baskett began to question other board members about whether they wanted to consider those alternatives. But board President Deb Mexicotte intervened, saying that discussion needs to take place in a session closed to the public.
Two companies submitted bids for taking over busing. Durham was the low base bidder, with an estimated cost to the district of $3,998,400. That’s more than $840,000 less than the district spends on transportation.
That base bid didn’t include items like a routing supervisor or fuel for the buses, Allen said.
Ann Arbor is also currently talking with the nine other traditional school districts in the county about a countywide transportation system. Superintendent Todd Roberts told the board the district should know what type of savings would be possible under that system by mid or late March.
Allen also noted if the district privatized busing, it could save about $200,000 a year in indirect costs in the finance, legal and human resources departments in central administration.
In the area of custodial workers, the district could save slightly more than $1 million if it took the low base bid, the figures show.Â The district bid out 140 custodial positions.
In the maintenance area, the district could save more than $500,000 by taking the lowest base bid, the figures show. The district bid out 25 maintenance worker positions.
Before the meeting, several custodians and maintenance workers picketed the district headquarters.
During public comments before the bids were shown, Darryl Wilson, the president of the custodial union, cautioned the board to think about the loss of quality and the safety of children if private companies were brought in to replace current workers.
David Jesse covers K-12 education for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at email@example.com or at 734-623-2534.