Wednesday, 29 May 2024

Schools look at way to cut costs in face of another tough budget year

KELSEYVILLE – Faced with another year of budget challenges, local school district representatives gathered on Tuesday to hear about ways to work together to achieve cost-savings and improved services to schools and students.


More than 40 people – including representatives from all seven Lake County school districts and members of the public – gathered at Kelseyville High School for the “Shared Services Workshop.”


The school districts in Lake County are facing devastating cuts in funding from the state and are looking at all options for capturing cost savings that can be used to support school programs, according to a report from the Lake County Office of Education.


As part of the effort, the Lake County Superintendent of Schools Dave Geck and the Lake County Board of Education hosted the workshop for board members, administrators and members of the public.


Geck shared that the focus of the evening was “to listen and learn about strategies that may have potential for our county.”


A panel of representatives from districts outside of Lake County described their success in implementing shared services strategies.


“Shared Services” were described as strategies where school districts collaborate to take advantage of individual district resources, create economies of scale and reduce redundancies.


The panel presentation was a part of a special board meeting that began with dinner provided by the Kelseyville food services program.


After the dinner, Superintendent Geck opened the panel presentation by explaining that the evening was the result of the Lake County Board of Education’s desire to seek ways to enhance efficiencies and effectiveness in services to schools and students in order to help districts use the cost savings to support student learning.


He described the ongoing work being done by school districts to create savings by utilizing county-wide opportunities for joint purchasing of custodial supplies, diesel, gas, oil and propane.


Geck also mentioned the shared transportation services model being used in the Upper Lake and Lucerne districts, where they share a transportation director, buses, bus drivers and bus maintenance staff.


He then introduced the panel members and they shared their experience with shared services.


They included Suzanne Grass, director of child nutrition services for the Grass Valley School District, who explained how she and her staff provided food services to the elementary school districts in Nevada County.


Her program provides breakfast and lunch meals to the districts that then warm the meals and serve them to their students.


She shared that the Grass Valley School District had been providing this service for over 30 years.


During the question and answer period, when asked about maintaining nutritional standards with the prepackaged meals, Grass responded that she must meet the same standards that individual districts are required to meet.


The next panel member, Keller McDonald Superintendent of the West Sonoma County High School District, described the shared transportation services provided by the West County Transportation Agency.


The agency was established in 1988 by seven elementary school districts and one high school district. The goal of the agency is “to provide safe and student centered services at the most reasonable cost.”


He listed as benefits to the districts optimal bus routes, optimal use and management of the bus fleet, cost savings on fuel purchasing and access to regional bus replacement grants for conversion to compressed natural gas. McDonald also said centralized employee training and retention was a plus.


When asked about the impact on employees when the agency began, he stated that all employees were ensured full employment for a set period of time and that employee salary schedules were tied to salaries for school transportation employees in the region.


The final panel member was Dr. Sue Field, superintendent of the Bennett Valley Union School District. She shared a variety of areas where her district was participating in shared services with neighboring districts.


Field explained that the opportunity for collaboration can be as simple as sharing a staff member between two small districts that were individually unable to offer a full time assignment, but together could do so together.


She discussed the potential for collaboration in the area of business services, like human resources support and payroll. Her district was pleased with the food services they were receiving from the Santa Rosa City Schools and transportation services from the West County Transportation Agency.


After questions and answers, Geck wrapped up the workshop by listing next steps that will be facilitated by his office.


He said he would invite stakeholders from all the school districts to participate in a work group that would be charged with addressing four questions:


  • Do additional shared services make sense considering our local circumstances in Lake County?

  • What services, if any, are the best candidates for additional shared services?

  • What legal structures best match our needs for supporting shared services in Lake County?

  • What is the realistic time frame for implementing any identified shared services?


He thanked the panel members for their presentations and the audience for their participation. County Board Vice President, George Ryder thanked everyone as well and closed the meeting.


Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

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