Thursday, January 14, 2010

Negotiation, outsourcing updates

The School Board's Negotiating team and the NFT met earlier this week to further contract negotiations. Although no significant progress was made, both sides agreed to meet again in the near future.

The Board has asked for a state-appointed Fact Finder to review the negotiations with the Support Worker's union (NESPA). There are two meetings scheduled with the Fact Finder in February, and the Board anticipates the Fact Finder's assessment will be rendered in late March.

While negotiations with NESPA are ongoing, the Board continues to consider outsourcing options for some of the support functions. In response to concerns that the cost benefits of outsourcing will only last for three years, the Board has asked for and received an amended bid for Custodial services to cover five years, the savings of which is now projected to be $14.4 million. The bidding results for Transportation services have also been received, and the best bid came from First Student with a proposal to save the District $16 million over five years.

For more details on this update, go to the Board's Negotiation website. Also, here is an article in today's Courier Times regarding these developments.


Erik said...

Let's do the math on this one. We have a $7 million shortfall in the budget and we can either cut educational programs or eliminate virtually the whole thing by outsourcing. Sounds like a no brainer to me.
The support workers can thank their union leadership for this predicament. They are very effective negotiators. They just helped the district figure out how to cut $30 million.

scrubb said...

To all support staff employees, WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE! Don't you see what is happening here? Your leader has been duped by the NFT leader to hold out on negotiating probably by giving her some BS line about labor unity. Then when all of your jobs have been OUTSOURCED the teachers will turn around and expect the board to give into their demands now that they have all this new found money.
You people are being USED. Why are you just sitting there and doing NOTHING? You are being sacrificed by the people who are supposed to be PROTECTING you. If you want to keep your jobs then ACCEPT the board offer. Having a job and paying for benefits is alot better than HAVING NO JOB AT ALL.
You are RUNNING OUT OF TIME. You must settle NOW. If you end up getting fired you have nobody to blame but YOURSELVES!!!!!

acs said...

William, I applaud the board for continuing to be transparent in the process of contract negotiations. It is such a breath of fresh air compared to other boards and of course Obama but that is another blog.
That being said,after seeing this one it does now seem like you have decided to outsource and are going through the motions with NESPA. What is the savings for taxpayers when you compare the outsourcer to the boards contract offer to the union. I going to guess it will still show a $20-25M savings over 5 years but that would be good for community to know as you go down the path to outsource. It really feels like there really isn't much NESPA can do unless they find a way to get close to the outsourcers bids to keep their jobs. I would argue that the district can pay a small premium for keeping the staff in house but now we are paying $30M more than we need to for union workers.
When will unions learn their day is over and never coming back. Greed is not good!

TFR1984 said...

What about it William? Has the board in fact already decided to outsource? If not, I can recommend a good psychiatrist to you because you all need your heads examined.

The first priority of the board is to the students and the second are taxpayers. The employees would come in third because the board does not answer to employees. Employees are the means by which the first two priorities are achieved. When will the teachers and workers understand that they are asking the board to put them ahead of the board's first two priorities?

I hadn't thought of the workers as being used like pawns but scrubb makes an excellent point. Those people better stand up for themselves and they had better do it quickly because Lord knows their union isn't looking out for them.

Dan said...

Let me get this straight...the NESPA's sole concern about outsourcing support services was that savings might "only last three years?" And, for how many years would THEIR proposal produce savings for the district?

Right...that's what I thought. How much longer until you can call First Student and Pritchard to get those deals done?

To the entire board, I say - keep holding the line. There was a day when all a teacher's union had to say was "Boo!" (or, utter some pabulum about how their latest demands were "for the children")and every parent jumped. Those days are over. The tide has turned. Teachers are now WAY more than fairly compensated for their (admittedly critical, but nine months' worth of) work and their neighbors are tapped out. As for their outrage over having to make real-world contributions to their health care plans...well, I'm self-employed. Don't even bring up the subject around me. Anybody wanna guess my "contribution" percentage?

Bottom line, Erik hit it dead-center...NESPA and NFT have practically gotten on their knees and BEGGED the board to outsource their jobs. Let's comply with their wishes at once!

JS said...

I would love to have some official comments from Council Rock on how they like the bus service. Every district I know of that has outsourced transportation has ended up hating it (besides paying far more than they expected).

Once you sell the buses you no longer have ANY leverage. How much do you want to bet that after those initial years the cost goes up quite a bit. Once Neshaminy has sold it's buses it would then face multiple millions to repurchase them. Bus Companies know that and price low to start then higher once you are stuck.

I agree that the savings custodial wise are more than enough to warrant trying outsourcing. From a capital stand point it doesn't take much to bring that back "in-house" if needed.

William I hope the Board will find out the full numbers and what it would cost the district to reverse it's choices down the road before just running with the "it will save us X million dollars". It could also cost us X million down the road if it gets screwed up.

srodos said...

I have a few small questions. The request for bids included Field and Sports trips and the Band bus. The web site post refers only to Field trips. Are these other items included in the School District posting?
Is there an explanation for the difference between the unit price of the buses on the request for bids and the amounts being paid for the buses?
With all of the buses that they operate across the U.S. and Canada on a daily basis do you feel that their insurance coverage is sufficient?
Will the district be contributing any money for benefits?

sk.langhorne said...

This is a rhetorical question since I know you cannot answer here William but how much longer can the board hold back from making the tough choice to move ahead with outsourcing? You have a $7 million debt in front of you, the unions won't make the concessions you need, the alternative is cutting student programs. The public has grown tired of labor demands, and the Courier Times even today wrote another damning editorial. I think it is already beyond the point of no return

acs said...

Frankly the prior 2 posts are nit picking issues. Would the same people who always attack to board for not focusing on education like the board to cut education programs and teachers or have outsourced busing service saving $16/5 years that isn't perfect?
Janitors and bus drivers do not aid learning last time I looked. The board should not major on the minors here.

IrishFarm said...

Thank you ACS! People are trying to nitpick the outsourcing to death without considering the alternative of cutting programs. I hope we can find a way to spare these peoples jobs, but if the choice is either lay off the bus driver who knows my kids name or cut a music course, there is no discussion on what should be done.

KClarinet said...

Before everyone gets completely carried away with the idea that NESPA-provided services are completely separate and autonomous from instructional programs, consider all the places where education depends on those services - not just basic sweeping and cleaning or morning and afternoon bus runs to and from school. What hours are included in the bids? Are evening custodial services for school programs (concerts, shows, Gym Night, etc.), parent group meetings and community group events covered? If they are to be charged above the basic contract, what will the projected cost be to maintain the same general level of service the district currently expects? Will bus drivers be available within the bid price to get sports teams to games, music students to County, District and Regional events as well as inter-mural rehearsals within the district itself? Will activity buses be available to take students home after school from high school and middle school show rehearsals or meetings of debate club, science club, etc.? If not, how much would the overtime at the outside contractor's rates cost to maintain transportation service levels generally at our current level? If the district doesn't provide for these services one way or another, educational programs will have been affected.

I don't say that these concerns aren't possible nits, just that before anyone can decide what is nit-picking and what isn't, someone needs to make the projections and find out what those costs are likely to be and whether or not they offset a significant amount of saving.

JS for one has only asked that these areas be investigated before the board commits the district to moves that, once made, may be costly to reverse. We've made too many mistakes in this district (I won't rehash the history) because decisions were made without full inquiry and based mostly on emotion and slogans. Get all the facts - not just the ones that support one side or the other and then make a fully-informed decision.

Why is it that so many (with painfully rare exceptions) of the proponents of outsourcing seem incapable of discussing it without simultaneously railing against NESPA, NFT or both? In a real sense, NFT and NESPA are irrelevant to the question of whether or not to outsource. Clearly it's cheaper to outsource, it probably would have been cheaper all along, and it would be cheaper even if a new contract were agreed to completely on the board's current terms. It has only taken on urgency for many taxpayers now, when it can be used as a sword of Damocles over the service workers. Now that everyone is inflamed against NESPA's tactics (or at least what we see of them) outsourcing has become a hot-button. Most of the "discussion" is simply emotion-charged war-chanting and sloganeering - "WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE" (caps not mine), "Those people better stand up for themselves."

The board has some of the facts. How comforting it would be to know it had all the information we could think to look for.

acs said...

KC, some,not all,of those details are important I am sure, and I am certain they will be worked out. However the bottom line is the board is showing the community just how overpriced union labor is and how this is negatively impacting education. This includes the NFT. It is really something when you look at the excess cost perpetrated on Americans in all school districts by union labor. Really disgraceful especially when it begins to erode educational quality. It is hard to really have any sympathy when the unions refuse to give back to the community and then lose their jobs. The whole thing wass under their control and they let it happen.

platypus said...

The board has shown they are fair with employees. Look at those other groups they settled with last year. They didn't have union power so the board could have just said no raise and pay 30% benefits but they didn't do that. The support staff doesn't have the power the teachers do but they have their arrogance and it is going to cost them their jobs. They will get no sympathy from me.

JS said...

ACS, I made a point of seeking out someone I know works for Council Rock and interacts with Firs Student.

Do you know that on a yearly basis First Student hands CR an additional bill of about $1 million for "Extra Services"?

Their contract "savings" almost immediately disappeared after the initial contract and sale of buses. Now they save virtually little money, but get a bill a the end of the year (in essence making it cost as much if not more).

I'm not saying outsourcing is not a viable option, but as a tax payer I don't want our School Board to back us into a corner just to save some money in the immediate future.

You'll still have multiple administrators as "supervisors" of transportation (just look at CR). You'll still have a business administrator who seems to get a free pass while being one of the least educated members of upper administration.

All this talk of outsourcing and those running the show all seem guaranteed to keep their jobs. Why is that? Don't they own some responsibility? Mr. O'Connor has defended Mr. Paradise before saying he has to go with what the Board tells him. Fine, if he (and other management) don't hold the responsibility why are we paying them so much?

ACS, all who read your comments understand how much you seem to hate unions in Neshaminy. That doesn't make any decision to get rid of them the right one in the long run.

William O'Connor said...

JS, the moment this Board mentioned it was considering outsourcing of support services, we were greeted with rumors of gloom and disaster in other districts. Overwhelmingly these rumors have been proven to be unsubstantiated.

The first rumor was that these companies use undocumented workers to keep costs low. That rumor has been proven false.

The second rumor was that these companies don't check backgrounds of their employees and there were stories of child molestors driving buses. That rumor has been proven false.

The next rumor was that Council Rock hated First Student and was looking to bring busing back in house. Again, no truth to this rumor. We confirmed with the CR superintendent who told us they had no complaints with First Student, and they were now going through the time-honored, prudent business practice of competitive bidding for the next contract. First Student could well win that bid again (depending on the bid amount, of course).

We also checked with Bristol SD who uses First Student, and they are perfectly happy with them.

So now I will follow up on the rumor you heard about the $1 million savings shortfall to see if there is any truth to that one.

JS said...

The first two rumors I agree are far with out merit.

"Happy" and "Saving Money" are two different things. Most are "happy" with the current transportation department functionality, but it obviously is costing us. If three years from now when the contract comes up for bid again and the "savings" dissapear, is it really worth it?

All I need to ask is how many of the area districts outsource Transportation. If they ALL could save $3 million a year every year, why don't they? The reason (my opinion) is they know those savings don't continue and eventually the costs are the same, but you no longer have as much control.

acs said...

JS, I do not "hate" anything since that is emotional. I am not interested in significantly overpaying for services just to make union workers delighted. They are obviously not market competitive with non-union labor so with a $30M savings to use to reinvest in eductions it is really just common sense. The union can decide to be competitive and win their jobs back...that is capitalism and how America works. There is no reason to overpay for non-core school district services.

William O'Connor said...

We have checked with the Council Rock SD Superintendent, and he has confirmed that the rumor of a million dollar savings shortfall is flat-out wrong. Any payments made to First Student for all those little "extras" were anticipated and budgeted. There were no surprises.

Where the confusion lies is that some staff members may think that these extras are costing CR something they wouldn't be paying if transportation was handled in-house, but that is not true. Even when transportation is handled internally, all extras cost money. Nothing is free. And as CR learned, those extras cost less with outsourcing than they did with an internal transportation department.

To paraphrase what we were told by CR, they are thrilled with the service and are pleased with the continued savings. As CR goes through any bidding processes for transportation, they will not be considering bringing transportation back in house.

JS said...

I highly expected the $1 million dollar extra to be disproven. That's a lot of unexpected bus runs.

I guess we can take the Superintendant's word on their pleasure with First Student, but my conversations have taken place with those dealing with transportation on a daily basis (music, sports, events) and they are adamant that though not horrible, if they could bring it back in house they would. That's what these individuals (multiple) say they've discussed directly with administrators.

I will ask again though that why, if it is such a savings, have not ALL of the surrounding districts outsourced their transportation?

I would perfectly understand the Board taking a stance and making statements that paint the outsourcing in the best light in order to put the most pressure on our current transportation department.

My personal opinion (and this is not just in regards to CR and First Student) is that most Districts that have outsourced transportation have ended up regretting it, but not being able to do anything about it afterwards.

William O'Connor said...

JS, it's difficult to speculate why other districts haven't considered outsourcing transportation. Perhaps their internal costs are less because staff kicks in for benefits and they have something less than a top tier health care plan. Or maybe their financial situation is better than ours and they rather not deal with this difficult issue unless they have to. And of course we have to consider the much-less glamorous but equally possible alternative - they just haven't thought about it.

I'll keep my fingers crossed we can avoid the whole mess and get a deal done with NESPA, but we've got that $7 million deficit looming for next year and time is growing short.

JS said...

William, after checking I would not be surprised that the Superintendant says they are currently not looking to bring Transportation in house.

That's because according to the official minutes for 11/19/2009 they have already awarded a 5 year contract to First Student. It's probably not conducive to bad mouth a group at all if you've just signed a 5 year deal with them.

So obviously those talks I've heard of them buying our buses must be old, but I wonder if our bid process had started earlier whether or not they would have had validity.

No offense though, but you having just spoken with CR wouldn't you think they might have mentioned they have been done with their bidding process for 2 months?