April 18, 2012 - As the Lake Orion School Board moves forward with the RFP (Request for Proposal) process for privatization of custodial services, "a dark cloud of discouragement" remains over the current AFSCME Union custodial staff, according to Kathy Sandstrom, mail truck driver/custodian for the school district.
"Our custodial staff has worked for the district with the highest of ethical standards to provide for our students a safe and secure and clean environment to receive the best education Lake Orion schools can offer," Sandstrom said during public comment at the April 12 meeting. "With moral courage we are fighting for our jobs and we are rightfully facing the opposition of privatization."
It's with the same moral courage she urged the board to "look deep inside and face the popular opposition of privatization," as well as to research and compare the current custodial staff with the private companies apples to apples.
"Ask the questions," she said. "Do not allow others just to give you the way every other district is going. Do not allow our district to be followers but to be the leaders and an example of the new standards for other districts to follow."
In an update to the board, Assistant Superintendent of Business and Finance John Fitzgerald said they received seven vendors at a mandatory pre-bid meeting, but only five responded to the actual RFP. Of those five, two were non-compliant leaving three to be interviewed, plus the AFSCME Union also gave a proposal.
"In our current budget we have about a $3.1 million budget with respect to the explicable custodial wage and the benefit cost associated with it such as FICA, Retirement healthcare and those things," Fitzgerald said. "With respect to the three vendor proposals that came in, the average expected annual cost that they're incurring is looking to be in the $1.5-$1.7 million range, producing an expected annual reduction in the range of $1.4-$1.6 million."
The bid format itself he said required a three year total cost proposal that was also sub broke down by annual cost proposals.
Enviro-Clean Services gave a three year bid amount of $4,102,666 or an annualized base bid of $1,402,453. GCA Services Group gave a three year bid of $4,334,592 or an annualized bid of $1,486,146. The DM Burr Group gave a three year bid of $4,372,402 or an annualized bid of $1,499,109.
"There are some apples to apples and analytical work that needs to be done to equalize and normalize some the data in respect to how the different vendors do business so to speak," noted Fitzgerald.
On a gross annual cost reduction Enviro-Clean would save the district $1,697,547; GCA Services Group would save $1,613,854; and The DM Burr Group would save $1,600,891. The AFSCME proposal offered a $541,000 annual cost reduction.
Vendor interviews are set for April 20 by the Interview vendor Committee, which is comprised of facility personnel, principals, and two school board members.
Fitzgerald said there would be a standard base interview question set for all the vendors.
"As more internal analysis and internal work gets finalized in the next couple weeks, the goal will be to bring an award process to the board on the second meeting in May," he said.
Local businessman Bill Holt thanked the board for asking for the RFP's because it brings out competition.
"We need to run our schools like a business," Holt said. "We are trying to maximize the value of our education product, while minimizing the cost for the labor and materials we spend for input."
He believes they need to be able to compete in test scores with the best schools in Michigan, the United States, Canada, Brazil, Japan, India, and China. He also noted, he is not against labor unions because they have proven to be effective against unfair and unsafe labor practices. However, he does thing they can be a problem when they create costs that our higher than local competitiveness or create unreasonable labor rules.
"A way to make sure our support staff costs are competitive is to ask for competitive bids and the lowest cost proposal is not always the best choice," Holt added. "Capability, experience and good references for doing the work needed to be done at a reasonable price are the goals of this RFP process."
Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.