Letter to the Editor

School corporation must use fair comparison

Sunday, June 13, 2010

To the Editor:

Can you realistically compare the cost of two eggs to the cost of baking a cake and base a decision on the comparison?

Recently, the Clay Community Schools Corporation personnel gave a report to the school board that compared the corporation's personnel costs for vehicle maintenance to what outside vendors would charge to maintain our buses.

It is stated in the minutes of the school board meeting of May 20, 2010, that an outside contractor would have to be 288 percent more efficient to be cheaper than corporation employees performing the work. That is absurd from a business viewpoint and a sure indication that the information is skewed by error.

No business would hire something to be done if they would save that much money by doing it in-house.

That is not to mean that the school corporation would save money by outsourcing bus maintenance, just that it doesn't know yet because the formula used was wrong.

There are overhead costs to be considered on both sides, both the corporation's and the vendors' costs for the building, utilities, administrative costs, parts, fluids, materials, insurance, etc., in a maintenance operation.

There is, at least, one business expense that an outside vendor would have that the corporation does not have; taxes, and one major business consideration that a vendor would have that the school corporation does not; that being profit.

From the efficiency figure stated, it would appear that these costs were included in the vendor's quotes and left out of the school corporation's estimates.

In the minutes of the same meeting, a person will find a discussion of our facilities maintenance operation. It indicates, as is often the case in in-house maintenance operations, a lack of production record-keeping. Clocking in and out on a time clock is great for payroll and attendance records, however, if an employee's time is not documented on production records such as work orders, it is difficult to justify having the employee on the payroll.

The condition of our buildings and equipment are not an indication that we have the minimum number of employees needed, nor, if our equipment were not in good shape, would it indicate that we needed more employees unless the facts can be established from productivity records.

In both of these discussions, comparisons were made against the Center Grove School Corporation, located in Greenwood, Ind.

That corporation has 7,500 students to CCSC's 4,500 students.

It served 3,435 elementary school students in six buildings, 1,835 middle school students in two buildings, and 2,294 high school students in the 2007-08 school year, the year that CCSC attendance was at 4,665 students for enrollment.

It is no wonder that they have almost double our facilities maintenance staff. It is because their buildings are larger than ours.

Center Grove's buses drive 2,357 round-trip miles daily in an urban environment containing 47-square miles while the approximate same number of buses in CCSC log 2,5799 miles within boundaries that encompass 354-square miles.

With the differing traffic conditions that raises the probability of fender-bender accidents and more wear and tear on the buses from more stop-and-go traffic, is it any wonder why they would require more maintenance on their buses that would justify having more service personnel?

Our school board must ask clear questions and our school corporation employees must answer them clearly. Comparisons must be looked at to ensure that the items can even be compared in a given situation.

Leo L. Southworth,