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Nashua mayor urges school board to reject privatization of custodians

By KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent

March 26. 2016 12:08AM
JIM DONCHESS 



NASHUA — Mayor Jim Donchess expressed disapproval with the school board this week for considering outsourcing its cleaning service, a move that would leave 101 custodians without a job.

“It is a mistake for the district to privatize the custodial services,” Donchess told the Board of Education’s budget committee, urging the board to reconsider the privatization issue.

Donchess maintained that the public is against the change, stressing the school district should not be placing custodians on the unemployment rolls.

In an effort to save money, the Board of Education is exploring the possibility of ending its contract with the custodial union, Local 365/Council 93 AFSCME, and instead outsourcing its work.

The union has since filed an unfair labor practices complaint with the New Hampshire Public Employee Labor Relations Board, which is still pending.

The school district issued a request-for-proposals for outside custodial work, and received four bids from companies interested in the job.

For the first year of work, SJ Services quoted $2,696,454, Temco is offering $3,368,592, GCA is charging $2,931,058 and ABM is requesting $5,572,081. All four bids are lower than what the school district is currently paying its 101 custodians — about $6,178,000 for salaries, benefits, overtime, longevity, supplies and equipment.

All four bids offered five years of quotes, which ranged in savings from $606,000 to $3,481,627 compared to existing custodial staff costs.

“It is 50 percent of what we are spending on those services now. It is $3 million, so that kind of money can make a big difference in how we provide educational services,” contended Robert Hallowell, school board member.

That savings could be used to invest in third-grade reading and math needs, or other educational initiatives, said Hallowell.

“I don’t know when that financial miracle comes where we have room in our budget to make some of these changes that we know we need to make,” he added.

Some of the potential savings associated with outsourcing custodial services, specifically benefits such as health care costs and pensions, will decrease the city’s overall budget by $1.8 million.

“It is very unlikely that those (savings) would just be transferred to the school department. The city has many needs,” Donchess told school officials. “ … I think it is unlikely you would see the advantage of that.”

Donchess said that at least 10 aldermen would need to approve the transfer of $1.8 million, which he doubts would happen during this budget season or in the middle of the budget cycle if privatization is pursued.

George Farrington, school board member, said the school district also has many needs, including additional math specialists. In order to follow the mayor’s guideline of a proposed school district budget with a 2 percent or less increase from the current spending plan, Farrington said the district will have to continue to erode educational opportunities.

Donchess claimed that school officials may not see all of the savings and benefits they expect from privatizing custodial work. With the current custodians working a combined 4,000 hours a week, at least one of the bids received indicates 2,600 to 2,700 hours a week of custodial work.

“I just don’t see how in the world that could ever be accomplished,” said Donchess.


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