Municipal/School Cooperative Agreements Offer Valuable Savings Opportunities
A recent regionalization survey by LGC asked: “Are there any cooperative agreements between your municipality and school district(s)?” And, even though nearly all districts in New Hampshire are independent of their respective communities, 40 percent of the respondents said that they do have interlocal agreements and have forged partnership as a way to save money, maximize use of facilities and tap into an area of expertise to avoid duplication.
Many of the areas of cooperation underway revolve around purchasing. By far, fuel oil contracts are the number one cooperative strategy. Also mentioned were electricity, diesel, propane, office supplies and insurance programs. Obviously, buying in bulk saves money for both the school and community and joint purchasing is clearly the simplest way to cooperate.
There are more innovative ideas out there that require a bit more work or scheduling to accomplish but, in the long run, save taxpayer dollars. For example, some towns include the school parking lots in their plowing schedule and trash pick-up. In return, school fields are made available for town recreation programs.
Reducing duplication is another way to save money. A joint police officer/school resource officer split between the school and community makes sense in some instances. Other schools house both the school and town libraries under one roof. The town pays for the librarian while the school pays for the space and utilities. Different sections for school needs and adult needs exist, but the efficiency of having one space saves a great deal of money, provides longer hours and better service to the library patrons. Cable access studios are also an area where the schools and communities share. Involving kids in audiovisual services provides a learning tool with equipment that already exists. School buildings are used for town meetings, adult recreation leagues, emergency shelters and more.
I would be remiss, however, if I did not take an opportunity to mention the most widespread and successful example of interlocal cooperation between schools and municipalities—risk pools like the ones run by LGC and others. By combining the risk needs of both schools and communities in the areas of employee benefits and liability/property programs, over 500 risk pools across the country have been formed to solve the challenge of finding stable and affordable coverages that are tailored to meet the specific needs of the members.
So, whether it’s joint purchasing or simply being a “good neighbor,” cooperation can result in efficiencies if you look for them.
Jon Steiner is a former member of the Kearsarge (SAU #65) School Board, representing the Town of Bradford. He can be reached by phone at 800.852.3358 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.