At the Monday meeting of the Gainesville Board of Education, members brought up concerns about the system’s recent partnership with Southern Management for janitorial services.
At more than $103,000 per month, the contract with Southern Management went into effect July 1 and lasts for one year, with a renewal option for two years. However, the city school system has been outsourcing its cleaning services for around 25 years.
“I think outsourcing is an option that everyone looks at, particularly in terms of (health) insurance costs, salaries and benefits,” said Gainesville Superintendent Merrianne Dyer.
Hall County also has been outsourcing cleaning services for some time, phasing out its in-house janitorial services over the past three or so years. The decision was made to not eliminate positions in one fell swoop, but to make the move to outsourcing as county employees left the system.
Now, janitorial services are outsourced at 24 Hall schools.
The county system has an annual contract with GCA Services Group for approximately $2.5 million, said Damon Gibbs, executive director of facilities.
“If we have a Hall County custodian, if you take their salary, benefits, all of the costs for our equipment, supplies, paper products, everything, it costs us about $2 a square foot,” Gibbs said. “We can outsource it for about $1.15 a square foot.”
Both Dyer and Gibbs pointed to those cost savings as the primary motivation behind outsourcing services.
“In Gainesville’s case, we made the decision a number of years ago,” Dyer said. “The rationale then was cost control and management and getting a better quality and more consistency.
“(Other) school districts are looking at outsourcing bus drivers, school nutrition workers,” she added. “Some are examining outsourcing their technology department. That’s really in response to the rise in insurance costs, health insurance benefits.”
Both Gibbs and Dyer expressed overall approval of the quality of these outsourced janitorial services, while Dyer said the concerns voiced by the Gainesville school board members were in response to results from a survey by the school principals indicating their dissatisfaction.
“A lot of that had to do with the availability of supplies and paper products and cleaning equipment,” Dyer said, noting Southern Management had hired several people who had worked in the schools for the previous janitorial company, Service Solutions. “It wasn’t a matter of labor. It was mostly communication and the management of getting supplies and everything to the schools.”
The issue will be revisited at an October meeting of the board.