ST. PETERSBURG - In an effort to help the Pinellas County School District find savings in a challenging budget climate, the Pinellas Education Foundation, in consultation with Pinellas County School’s administration, identified six area of focus for cost-savings research and discussions: Construction, Energy, Health Care, Maintenance, Purchasing and Transportation.
Over a 12-month period, 32 volunteer committee members, including Tampa Bay business leaders and Pinellas County and city public administrators, worked together with Pinellas County School District staff to identify the best possible cost-savings options and recommendations for the superintendent and school board to consider.
Volunteers participated in more than 40 meetings at schools and district locations, donating hundreds of hours of personal time for this important endeavor.
The recommendations offered in the Savings for Classrooms report provide an opportunity to examine major operational expenditures within Pinellas County Schools through the lens of third party experts. Savings for Classrooms offers millions of dollars in savings to the district at a critical time of budget shortfalls, and it provides best practices that will continue these savings in future years. These savings are significant and they can translate to a better classroom experience for students and teachers in Pinellas County Schools.
“It is gratifying to work with a school board and superintendent who are open to thoughtful critiques and candid assessments from experienced business and community leaders,” stated Craig Sher, chairman of the Pinellas Education Foundation. “We all share the goal of offering the best possible learning environment for students and teachers in our community. These recommendations, if implemented, will allow the district’s limited dollars to be re-allocated to serving those who matter most - the students and teachers in our classrooms.”
“As usual, the Pinellas Education Foundation and members of the business community have stepped to the plate to assist the district,” said Pinellas Schools Superintendent John Stewart. “Members of the six committees, all experts in their fields, listened closely to the information shared by district staff and have returned a treasure trove of suggestions that we will take very seriously.”
Among the many recommendations the committees made were the following:
• The Construction Committee recommended among many items that the district should consider the sale of vacant land and facilities to reduce operation budget. The ongoing costs related to these unused sites cost approximately $600,000 per year and could generate millions of dollars in cash for reinvestment.
• The Energy Committee recommended that the temperature should be set at 76 degrees for A/C (instead of current policy of 73) for all school buildings. Immediate savings from a 3 degree change can be $1,300,000 annually. It was also shown that the Administration building has highest energy use in the District. PCS leadership should set an example by lowering energy costs for this building.
• The Health Insurance Benefits Committee recommended that the district use a self-funded medical plan.
• The Maintenance Committee recommended revising the job description of the associate superintendent for facilities, Operations and Safety as the person needs to be an experienced senior facilities executive leader trained for high-tech operations.
• The Purchasing Committee suggested the district explore consortium purchasing opportunities and exploit piggybacking opportunities with counties, municipalities, and school districts across Tampa Bay.
• The Transportation Committee found that PCS provides over $8 million of transportation services not mandated by the state of Florida which amounts to 25 percent of the entire $32 million transportation budget. In addition, the Pinellas school bus utilization is 66%, less than all four surrounding districts.