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Farmington Board Votes to Keep More Support Services In-House

Nutrition and maintenance contracts are unanimously approved.

Since February, non-educational support workers – namely the bus drivers, custodians, nutrition services skilled trades workers – have been negotiating to keep the district from outsourcing their jobs to private-sector contractors.

On Tuesday, the nutrition services and skilled trades bargaining units learned they had succeeded.

At the June 21 Board of Education meeting, Dave Ruhland, assistant superintendent, recommended approval of those contracts. In May, the district approved the contracts for the bus drivers and custodians.

The district invited proposals from contractors in an effort to save millions of dollars – an estimated $4 million per year – at a time when state funding cuts for public schools are weighing heavily on school budgets.

Though the district’s consideration of outsourcing was controversial among school employees and some residents, Ruhland said unions worked to help members keep their jobs.

“It was our employees stepping up and lowering those costs,” he said.

Officials told unions that if they could reach 75 percent of the savings private vendors estimated they could provide, the district would keep those services in-house.

The nutrition services and skilled trades workers’ unions followed the lead of the bus drivers and custodians’ unions and negotiated similar concessions, including increased contributions to health care costs, giving up furlough reimbursement and step increases, and in the case of the all units but the skilled trades, wage concessions.

“The savings were clearly on par” with what the board asked for, Ruhland said.

In maintenance and skilled trades, there were no wage concessions because the workers were making hourly wages comparable to those in the private sector, Ruhland said.

But they did agree to wage freezes, and reduced their paid work day by one quarter hour a day. They also gave up some of their paid days off and made concessions in the way that overtime is paid. Now overtime will be based on a 40-hour week, rather than on an eight-hour day.

“In both instances the savings are on track for what the board expected,” Ruhland said. 

The board voted 5-0 in favor of approving the contracts.

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