Gwinn Area Community Schools Save Through Privatization

GWINN — Gwinn Area Community Schools may see lower costs and improved services for its custodial work this fall. It contracted the work to Hi-Tec Building Services, a Jenison company that will use two more custodians and serve the schools nine more hours per day, according to Superintendent Steven Peffers.

Gwinn had been facing a $740,000 deficit for the upcoming school year. This contracting will reduce that by $186,000 in the first year, save $250,000 in the second, and $280,000 in the year after, according to the Marquette Mining Journal.

In addition to custodial privatization, the district is using a firm for substitute and coaching services, has switched its administrators to a less expensive health care plan, and decided to leave its pool unused for the year.

But even with the privatization and other moves, the district will not be able to balance its budget and is expecting to incur a $550,000 general fund loss.

The community will vote on a special bond in February to address some of its capital improvement needs. The district’s buildings are all more than 40 years old and in need of new roofs, Peffers stated. However, the bond proceeds cannot be used to cover any general fund expenses.

As with many contracting experiences, there is a question over what to do with current employees. The district has a number of vacancies in other positions, including bus drivers and lunchroom supervisors. The current employees will have priority for those jobs, according to the Mining Journal.

The support staff union filed a grievance against the school board. It alleged that its contract with the district bars the school district from using nonunion labor for the service. The school board responded that there was no such provision in its contract, and that state law bars such clauses.

Editor’s Note: This contract was not counted in the 2006 summer privatization survey because the deal was made after its conclusion.