Thursday, January 28, 2010

Outsourcing the truth - Facts behind the rumors

When this Board decided it would investigate the potential benefits of outsourcing some of our support functions, we knew it would be a controversial subject. Even though the cost savings opportunities make outsourcing seem like a no-brainer, we must pursue this option carefully while we're still in negotiations with NESPA. I don't think there is a Board member in the bunch that wants to see one of our employees lose their job, but ultimately we may have to weigh that consideration against cutting educational programs.

As we look deeper into the possibility of outsourcing, one thing we have learned is that some who oppose the idea will go to any lengths to make it look like a perilous journey through the gates of Hell. They have engineered made-up facts, and used fear tactics to scare and intimidate. Here is a partial collection of rumors that have been circulated throughout our district to sway the public against the notion of outsourcing - everyone one of them proven false.

Rumor - Outsourcing vendors use undocumented workers/illegal aliens to save costs.
Fact - Each vendor we considered proudly pointed out that their employees are subjected to thorough background checks and drug testing. In fact, those vendors put their employees through a more vigorous screening than Neshaminy does.

Rumor - Outsourcing companies only save costs in the initial 3-year contract, then they jack up the prices.
Fact - We contacted several districts who have outsourced for more than 3 years, and they confirmed that any cost increases beyond the initial contract were within the rate of inflation. Just to play it safe, we have asked the vendors to provide us with a 5-year bid and they continue to show us a significant savings opportunity.

Rumor - Council Rock admitted they made a mistake and is trying to bring transportation back in house.
Fact - Not true according to their superintendent, who told a Neshaminy official that they are pleased with their transportation vendor (First Student) which is the same company Neshaminy is considering.

Rumor - Council Rock is losing $1 million or more in unexpected costs of outsourced transportation.
Fact - Again, the CR superintendent has confirmed this to be completely untrue.

Rumor - Council Rock has asked Neshaminy if we would be willing to sell our buses back to them so they could bring transportation back in house.
Fact - No such request from Council Rock, or any other district, has been made.

My favorite argument against outsourcing is that those vendors are for-profit companies only out to make a buck. OMG, you mean that when their contract is up, they will put us through painful, protracted negotiations and demand compensation that this District cannot afford to pay? Really?

The best reason not to outsource is because we have many hard working, good employees who serve us and our children very well. Their work ethic or dedication isn't the problem. Financing our children's education is the challenge that is driving this issue. And if a settlement isn't reached with our Support Workers union soon, we may have little choice but to make a very difficult decision in order to offset next year's $7 million budget gap.

In case you missed Tuesday's Board meeting, here is a recap courtesy of the Courier Times.


Mark said...

I could not agree more with these comments. Why can't we set a deadline that is reasonable to force the issue so we can begin realizing the savings?

Rebecca said...

You should have brought these facts to light when the union lady said why outsourcing would be a disaster. She painted this picture that they are being completely reasonable but thanks to the information you have provided on this blog, we know that isn't the complete story. I love our support workers but not at the cost of my child's education. As others on this blog have said, I'll put up with a bus driver or a cleaner who doesn't know my kids name if it means students can keep their language and arts classes.
Mark is right. This has gone on way too long and is taking a toll on the children and the community. make the call.

Get said...

Don't you know that nobody outside of Neshaminy knows how to drive a bus? You can't just find people to sweep floors or serve pizza any where you know. Where else can you find a secretary with enough time to be a union leader who comes to meetings and accuses the board of being bullies? Be reasonable OConnor. Our kids don't need to learn math or science. They don't need sports or music. It's more important they have a janitor who lives in their neighborhood.

csld said...

Too all the people on this blog who are sarcasic saying how no one else can drive buses or sweep or serve pizza like the current employees,I have this to say when all this outsorcing is done and all these workers are out of work or making a much lower rate and can't pay their taxes I hope you wont mine having all these foreclose homes in your neighbor and having to make up for the taxes they can't pay.Rebecca and Get if you believe for one minute that it is because of the support staff that these programs are being cut then you are misinformed because the majority of these workers dont make more that 20,000 dollars a year.I too am a Neshaminy tax payer and a support staff worker who by the way does not get benefits and I know that my taxes will continue to go up every year no matter what happens with the support staff.

acs said...

Thanks William this is very helpful. More people in the community need to understand the details behind the issue and the board's actions.

Steven said...

There was a Finace meeting this past Thursday evening where the board went over the budget and was there to answer any questions we as taxpayers had. There were 3 people from the support staff and 4 taxpayers there. It is a shame that no else came to actually get the facts.

Gabriel said...

I am surprised that William published Get's statement since it was purely sarcastic and offered nothing positive to the argument. Nobody, no matter their job, should be the subject of insults like that.

CSLD, your raise an interesting point about support workers losing their jobs and losing their homes to foreclosure. The counter to that arguement is that if we let them keep their jobs at the outrageous costs for benefits, other citizens will lose their homes to foreclosure because they cannot afford the taxes. Also it appears that many of the support staff, at least with Transportation, will likely get a job with the new vendors at comparable pay. The benefits may not be a lucrative but at least they'll be working and can avoid losing their homes. If they want to avoid all that drama, they could just settle with the Board by accepting their offer, but we both know that's not going to happen.

I still don't understand why the majority of your union's rank and file, most of whom are part timers with no benefits, didn't force your leaders into to putting the offer up for a vote.

Good luck to you CSLD. Regardless of what Get said, the majority of our community knows that the staff are decent, hard working people. Unfortunately we live in a very strained economic time.

csld said...

Thank you Gabriel I appreciate your kind words.Their are more than half of the support staff that does not have any benefits but I totally agree with you that the members should of accepted the offer that the board offered.The problem with that is that the people who did have benefits did not want that offer thinking that they can hold out and get a better deal.Now they are in the postion where they will pay more than the boards healthcare offer or lose their jobs.All the partime support workers are between a rock and a hard place because now they stand to lose there jobs because of healthcare they never had to begin with.I totally agree that the fulltime employees have to realize that the great healthcare package they have is a thing of the past.Believe me I dont think any of those members thought it would go this far where they would possible lose there jobs in the end.I hate to say this but my gut feeling is that there is no turning back .I cant see how after all the media coverage that the union and the board will sign a contract.I hope I am wrong because like you said there are alot of hard working people that work for Neshaminy.

JS said...

William you should get ready for more people visiting the site. It appears that BCCT has eliminated the ability to comment on their articles so that eliminates a place for people to have their voices heard.

acs said...

csld, Can you really find any valid business reason for the board to NOT outsource given the fact that union labor is totally noncompetitive? In the last SB meeting Mindy gave no real reason to avoid it. In fact she was just emotional and insulted almost everyone by taking an entitlement approach saying that the union workers "deserved" this and that. The board has repeated over adn over that support staff are great ppeople but there is just no more money. Why do you and the teachers not beleive them??
Workers will keep there jobs and the taxpayers will save $30M that can be used for education needs. I am having difficulty seeing why this is all that bad. This happens every single day in the real world so companies can focus on their core businesses. The core business of a school district is our children's education not their transportation and maintenance services. I think you are right there is no turning back since the board would have to explain why they chose the most expensive workers when they have been saying for 2 years we are out of money.

LivininLevittown said...

How can Oconnor and the board turn there backs on the savings now that the taxpayers know what it is. How could Oconnor not support outsourcing when it would stop programs from being cut. If the board accepted a lesser deal from the union and ended up cutting programs the entire community would riot. Its to late to turn back now. Support staff can thank Mindy Andersen for this. She'll keep her job and they won't.

csld said...

Acs I never said that I do not believe that the board has no money and that they believe we are all good people.I dont take this matter personal,I have spoken to both Mr Webb and William and I hold no ill feeling toward either them or the other board members I know it is about saving money.But I have a question for you how is it that outsourcing Food Service saving money? I was at the last board meeting and I did hear what Mindy said .What can I say she is trying to save her members from losing their jobs weather what she says is good ,bad or indifferent.
Living in Levittown although Mindy may still have her job after this but keep in mind she still will not have a contract and she will have lost most if not all her union members.

acs said...

"But I have a question for you how is it that outsourcing Food Service saving money?"
My understanding is that food is self funding and therefore there would be much less savings. I think the board will get bids but stick to bussing and custodial for now. Can't do it all at once.
As it realtes to Mindy like many I have spoken to I lost a lot of respect for her after that speech. I just really feel bad for the rank and file with such poor representation to allow all of them to now be so exposed since the leader was over her head in all of this.
You should not take my comments as about you I was speaking generally about the public union workers. They just don't seem to get that times are very different since their last contracts and the community really has zero patience and no support for people that apppear greedy as it relates to HC, retirement bonuses, and raises. Wether they are Wall st bankers or local public workers grubbing adn grabbing in the empty pockets of taxpayers!

csld said...

Acs Yes Food Service is self funded and the tax payers do not pay for any of the workers salaries ,I am not sure if the director or management who do have benefits are payed the same I do believe they are but William would be able to answer that question.
I totally agree with you requarding the HC and other outstanding benefits.Believe me I too cringe everytime I have to pay my school taxes.But again I think that even with this hugh amount that the district believes that they will save and I am not saying they wont but I think alot of the Neshaminy School District residences think that because of this their taxes wont go up .Acs like I have said many times I have been an employee of Neshaminy for many years and I know probably more than most residences about the schools ,for instance alot of the schools are old and in need of repair and that is going to cost money.The point that I am just trying to get across is dont think just because you lower peoples salaries that it is going to keep your taxes down .
What can I say about my union ...they tried and it looks more than likly they failed but myself and all of the part times never felt this was about us anyway especially when the union is saying they will take a pay freeze the first year as long as the full times dont have to pay for their benefits for that first year.So where does that leave the part times who have nothing I can speak for alot of employees, when I say we just want this over with we are tried of hearing and reading about it and not to mention all the crazy rumors you hear everyday.