The County Commissioners and the Board of Education agreed yesterday to work together to trim operating expenses by combining spending in areas such as warehousing, vehicle maintenance and health insurance.
The initiative is part of an effort to address a projected $16 million deficit in the school system's operating budget in five years. Generally, the county funds more than half the school system's operating budget.
"There could be a fairly high dollar value attached to combining some of these entities," said Walter Brilhart, the school system's director of administrative services. "We're trying to get the most use out of the money we have."
School and county officials said they could not estimate the potential savings from the joint spending practices until more details of the partnership are worked out.
The effort represents a new willingness on the part of the commissioners and the school board to work together.
"In the past there was a lot of bickering back and forth over turf," said school board member Joseph D. Mish.
"It's very encouraging to me that both staffs are working so well together," said County Commissioner Donald I. Dell.
The question of how to address a $16 million shortfall projected in the school budget for 2003 prompted the two boards to explore joint cost-savings initiatives.
The shortfall is based on using operating budget money over the next several years to pay back anticipated loans to build several new schools.
Representatives from school and county staffs have met in committees for the past few months to develop cost-saving measures. The recommendations were presented at yesterday's quarterly meeting between the two boards.
In the area of warehousing, school and county staff presented a proposal to share space in a 32,000-square-foot facility to be built on Meadow Branch Road.
Vernon Smith, director of school support services, said the school board would be responsible for operation of the warehouse, because its storage needs exceed the county's.
Smith said the warehouse needs to be available for use by August 1999 to accommodate school storage needs.
Currently, the Carroll County Career and Technology Center and the old Hampstead Elementary School are being used for storage. The school system also leases private warehouse space.
Smith said that the school system is moving toward contracting with the county to perform general maintenance work on its fleet of vehicles.
Stephen Guthrie, a personnel specialist with the school system, presented a proposal for a yearlong pilot project to integrate the insurance plans of county and school board employees.
The project would include life insurance, long-term disability, vision and prescription plans. Guthrie recommended delaying the integration of medical and dental plans until the pilot project can be evaluated.
The commissioners and the school board approved Guthrie's recommendation to hire a consultant, at a cost of $5,000 to $10,000, to study combining insurance plans.
In other business at yesterday's meeting, school board President C. Scott Stone said county and school officials had arrived at a solution to close the $3 million gap between the board's proposed $159 million budget for fiscal 1999 and the amount the commissioners have said they will approve.
In a revised budget plan, Stone said that the county's Department of Management and Budget has included an additional $1.6 million in the school's operating budget.
Stone said school budget officials will try to cover the remaining $1.4 million by carrying over unused money in the current budget.
Pub Date: 3/26/98