News and Tribune

April 6, 2013

New Albany-Floyd County schools to choose custodial company

Decision coming at Monday night’s meeting

By JEROD CLAPP
jerod.clapp@newsandtribune.com

NEW ALBANY — A new contract is likely to get signed with a custodial services company at Monday’s board of trustees meeting for the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp.

Brad Snyder, deputy superintendent, said the last request for proposal and contract award processes taught the district’s administration some lessons in finding a company to outsource custodial services to.

“First, I think we wrote our [request for proposals] differently in that we were less specific in terms of demanding a [full-time employee] count and less specific in describing the standards of cleanliness that were acceptable to us,” Snyder said. “The second RFP was specific in that we were seeking cleaning services and that would be measured by a set of standards we developed.”

He also said administration had a little more time to accept and review proposals.

“We had ample time to formulate questions, do interviews and call in references,” Snyder said. “The first time we went through it, we thought we knew the questions to ask, but I’m not sure we did. I think this time with a little experience, we knew more what to expect and we knew more what to ask.”

Snyder said five companies submitted proposals for three-year contracts — including Sodexo — and the administration is ready to make its recommendation for a company Monday.

The district hired Sodexo to outsource its custodians in October 2011. The initial three-year contract was projected to save the district about $800,000 per year, along with a $25,000 contribution from Sodexo to the district’s education foundation and another $5,000 for student scholarships.

However, in November 2012, the company requested renegotiation after losing twice as much money in the first two years than anticipated. The board agreed to extend the contract until May for an extra $150,000. If the board had kept Sodexo’s services at the same level, a new contract would have required the layoff of about 10 employees.

D.J. Hines, board president, said though Sodexo’s deal sounded sweet in the beginning and soured later, the district still realized a savings of about $1 million, which helped it out of its general fund deficit.

“From the board’s perspective, the lesson we may have learned is that we need to understand and know better than we did last time,” Hines said. “From a personal point of view, I’d say something we knew then and were wary of, but I think still made a good decisions with Sodexo, is that if the financial number appears too good to be true, it probably is.”

He said though the district got some cost savings from the deal, leaders still learned a lesson from the situation.

“To think that relationship was going to be long-term could have been naive on [the board’s] part,” Hines said. “However, the money we saved, I think that was a good financial decision.”

Snyder said if the board doesn’t choose one of the companies Monday night, it may look into bringing custodial services back in-house. However, the cost would be much higher than any of the outsourcing options.

Hines said though the district’s budget is back in black, the board still has to exercise caution in how that extra money is spent.

“The culture of what is expected across industry standards and what has been provided when custodial work was in-house are two different things,” Hines said. “As long as we’re in a financially fragile position, it becomes impossible to maintain the standards that we had.”

The board’s meeting begins at 6 p.m. Monday at the Performing Arts Center at Scribner Middle School.

SO YOU KNOW

• The New Albany-Floyd County school board’s meeting begins at 6 p.m. Monday. This meeting is scheduled at Scribner Middle School’s Performing Arts Center, not the Education Support Center on Grant Line Road.