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Schools save by outsourcing services
Private companies more cost-efficient
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A decrease in maintenance staff and competitive pricing have led the Hall County School District to outsource a variety of services.

“The system’s been outsourcing certain aspects of the maintenance for years,” Executive Director of Facilities Damon Gibbs said. “I think it’s common, and knowing a lot of folks in systems around us, especially smaller systems, they definitely don’t have the manpower to do even some of the things we can do ourselves.”

School officials say the practice frees up both time and money. At the March 24 Hall County Board of Education meeting, members approved two services provided from the outside, including fire ant protection and the replacement of heating, ventilation and air conditioning filters.

“There’s a lot of things that we simply can’t do,” Gibbs said. “We don’t have the expertise or the certifications to service our elevators, as an example. We have more elevators than people think.

“So there are a lot of services that we outsource; some because we have to, some because we just don’t have the expertise to do it,” he said.

One example is the replacement of the HVAC filters. The county’s contract with Pure Air for next year is a little more than $68,000 and will cover filter replacement in around 3,500 pieces of equipment both before the school year and during the winter break before school reopens in January.

“It would take two people almost (the entire year) to do that work,” Gibbs said. “But (Pure Air will) come in and do it (in) a couple of weeks. We couldn’t pay two people with benefits and come out cheaper than $68,000.”

Since the recession in 2008, the Hall County maintenance staff has decreased 25 percent, to around 30 employees, making efficient use of time a more important priority when servicing the district’s 35 campuses.

“We outsource pest control at this point,” Gibbs said. “We had a full-time employee where that’s all he did, was pest control. We outsource all pest control now for somewhere in the vicinity of about $30,000 a year. We were paying our employee with benefits more than that. Plus you have to have a truck, plus you have to buy chemicals.

“I don’t know a dollar figure that we’re saving, but we’re definitely outsourcing for less than we can maintain some things in-house.”

Gainesville City Schools also outsources pest control services, according to Director of Maintenance Adrian Niles.

“We make minor repairs in-house,” Niles said. “We only outsource jobs that are more than we can handle.”

Both school systems also outsource janitorial services.

But, Gibbs said, outsourcing isn’t the magic bullet. There are many instances when it is cheaper and more efficient for a school employee to do the work.

Examples include painting, day-to-day plumbing issues and some electrical work.

“There are certain things we do not outsource, and we do not want to outsource,” Gibbs said. “Because we do them very effectively and efficiently in-house.”

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