Funding wouldn't change decision to outsource custodians, Register says

Thursday, June 3, 2010 at 9:17pm

Even if the Metro Council granted an additional $6 million to the budget of Metro schools, it appears Director Jesse Register wouldn’t use the money to keep from outsourcing school custodians.

In the superintendent’s own words, the choice to privatize the district’s custodial services was driven by policy preference above — but ultimately also along with — financial considerations.

At last night’s Metro schools’ budget hearing, which at times turned predictably testy, Councilwoman Kristine LaLonde posed an especially pertinent question to Register: If the council allocated an extra $6 million to the district’s budget, where would that money go?

The school board has already approved a budget of $633.3 million, which includes outsourcing the jobs of 600-plus custodians to net a projected $5.1 million in savings. Additional savings would come from reducing the hours of bus drivers and by eliminating 24 central office positions.

Some council members have publicly discussed appropriating additional funds to ensure custodians remain employees of MNPS.

But responding to LaLonde’s inquiry, Register said the choice to privatize is both “a financial decision and a policy decision.”

“If the board were to be given additional money, we would have to put other priorities on the table along with this one,” he said.

Register said he would look at three things: adding 30 teachers to avoid busing English Language Learner students; paying elementary school principals the amount needed to work 12 months a year; and implementing a pay increase for the district’s teachers.

The final priority ignited a chorus of groans from the custodians and drivers in attendance, who stand to have their salaries reduced under the proposed budget.

According to the Metro Charter, the council votes on the level of funding Metro Nashville Public Schools receives. From there, the board decides how those dollars are used. Last week, the board tapped Cleveland, Ohio-based GCA Services Group to carry out its custodial and groundskeeping services.

Board members David Fox, Steve Glover, Mark North, Gracie Porter and Karen Johnson were asked the same hypothetical question that was posed to Register. Only Johnson gave a definitive answer that yes, she would hope to use an additional $6 million to retain the district’s custodians.

“I bet there’s 21 votes on this council to approve giving you more money if we thought you’d use it that way,” Councilman Jamie Hollin said. “I believe there’s more than 21.”

Councilman Michael Craddock, a critic of the privatization move, suggested Register and the board had used the economic downturn to promote an initiative.

“I apologize if this sounds like an indictment,” Craddock said. “But from my perspective, it appears to me, based on what Dr. Register has said a couple of times this evening, that you have taken advantage of the situation and pushed aside some 600 custodians, and cut the hours of another 800 school bus drivers, because the time was right to do it. You could excuse it away.” 

The Metro government budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year, which includes the schools’ budget, is scheduled to go before the council on third and final reading June 15. 

16 Comments on this post:

By: govskeptic on 6/4/10 at 4:36

Councilman Craddock and new Councilwoman Lalonde along with
a few other members can always be counted on to to Grandstand
on issues just such as this. Where in their campaigns promises
do any of these elected officials promise to protect every government
joband benefit irreguardless of whether money is available or not?
I hate to see anyone loose a job!! But government is no different
than private business in this regard and shouldn't be treated like
some sacret institution with life time employment. Struggling
taxpayers deserve more than this from those they elect!

By: Kosh III on 6/4/10 at 7:05

Thanks to Craddock and others for trying to protect our hard working and underpaid staff.
Just because private businesses are cold and heartless does not mean we should do the same. Private businesses are NOT perfect nor even many times efficient or effective.

By: on 6/4/10 at 8:05

This is a great start. They need to do this across the board with as many gov't jobs as possible.

By: pswindle on 6/4/10 at 8:07

I can not understand why the board can never select the right person for the office of Schools Director. If this is the best that they can do, we need sto start having it to become an elective office. This is what is wrong with the whole country and that is to out-source everything. We need our own custodians. Council, please step in and savw these jobs for our own people. Register is another big mistake.

By: popeye123 on 6/4/10 at 8:21

I'd like to see them get rid of more dead weight. I applaud Register. These people have been on the tit long enough. Time to go find a real job. Good luck finding one. Everyone knows if you work for metro you're useless and won't hire you. lol.

I work for a national company with an office here in Nashville. I made it my business to send a letter to HR headquarters about not hiring former Metro workers for ANY position.

By: RobertM100 on 6/4/10 at 8:22

LaLonde wants to make sure everyone knows she is the smartest person on the council. It's painful to watch. The School Board will do what they want - and the council will need to deal with it.

By: Kosh III on 6/4/10 at 8:34

Dead weight? popeye, i'd like to see you try to put up with a bus full of rowdy kids twice a day. Most Metro employees are hard working diligent people. Your vicious statements mask your ignorance.

By: popeye123 on 6/4/10 at 8:36

@Kosh, Yes dead weight. Sucking money out of our pockets like a syphon. Hard working? You make me laugh. Ignorance is not a trait I have. I KNOW what goes on in Metro, save it for someone who you can try to continue to fool.

By: house_of_pain on 6/4/10 at 8:52

Some of these custodians were making $15/hr...absolutely ridiculous.

By: Kosh III on 6/4/10 at 9:33

Dead weight? Tell that to the police, firemen, all the public works people who worked long hours 7 days a week during the recent flood.

Just like private businesses, there are lazy slackers but that doesn't change the fact that YOU would not last 2 days as a bus driver.

But don't call codes if your neighbor parks in his yard, don't call the cops when a drug dealer moves in next door, don't call the cops when someone parks in your yard, don't call Metro when a water line breaks on your street. Be a rugged individualist. Catch your own food, dig your own well, generate your own electricity.

Ignorant? Maybe. But you are certainly mean-spirited.

By: gruntz on 6/4/10 at 10:35

To privitize or not privitize, that is the question. It is obvious in the posts that all the emotional arguments are for the status quo and all the fact based arguments are for running the government more efficiently. It is very funny how hard people will argue to spend money when it isn't their money being spent. How many people would really say, faced with a 6 million dollar decision, and the money coming out of their own bank accounts, "Sure, I don't want to save 6 million dollars because people may lose their jobs. Where do I sign the check?". I have been laid off twice in my career and I didn't have a city council to cry to about poor old me. Sure it hurt me and my family but I just had to work even harder to find a new job. That's how it works. Stop whining, apply for the new jobs if you want, or get busy and find one outside the government if you dare.

By: gruntz on 6/4/10 at 10:39

Oh, I forgot to mention that my wife teaches at a Metro middle school. She has seen how half the custodians do next to nothing and the other half work twice as hard to make up for the slackers. Sorry guys but you need outsourcing and a private business running the show so that the slackers can be weeded out.

By: popeye123 on 6/4/10 at 12:20

Kosh. I do not mean to offend you personally. But the fact of the matter is we are being drained. We can't afford nor should we afford to keep up the status quo. I have been laid off 3 times. I know what it feels like. It happens. One thing we can count on in this life is change. I over generalized when I said Metro workers. But you know as well as I do if nothing is done they will continue to suck the life out of us TAXPAYERS. So turn out the lights, the party's over. Let's hope they have the ba##s to pass it and not give in to special interest.

I vote we hire a consulting firm to time study ALL METRO EMPLOYEES. You want to hear some squealing? Wow they would cry like never before. I can say this because it's my money. $10,000 a year in property taxes alone! Out of my pocket! For what?

By: Kosh III on 6/4/10 at 1:59

No offense. I do not work for Metro but I know that it has many hard working people who do vital service.
You do over-generalize, making Metro employees as all bad and worshipping private businesses, which can be just as bad.

By: concernedtaxpayer on 6/4/10 at 7:02

Kosh III:

you said " Private businesses are NOT perfect nor even many times efficient or effective"? So are you saying the government IS efficient and effective. It sounds like that is what you are saying and if so, you are completely wrong. I deal with both private businesses and public businesses every day and when you look at who is most conservative with money, it is private businesses hands down. Anything the government does costs more than when a private business does the same thing. Reason is, private businesses have to control their spending while the government knows they can always spend as much as they need to because I guess they believe their money supply is limitless. Biggest benefit of most private businesses is they know how to and are willing to curb wasteful spending.

By: pswindle on 6/5/10 at 9:36

This whole crazy idea makes me so sad. This will not help the school system. They will hire anything that they can find that will work for the lowest of low pay.