City schools hope fleet will yield fast cash

Chief, mayor say auction of unused vehicles will also help cut back on waste

April 14, 2004|By Doug Donovan | Doug Donovan,SUN STAFF

Want a 1973 green Army jeep with no doors, no roof and one seat -- the type popularized by military television shows like M*A*S*H?

If so, check out the Baltimore public schools' vehicle auction this month.

But be quick: Mayor Martin O'Malley already has his eye on it.

"I like that jeep," O'Malley said yesterday at a news conference announcing the auction. "I can use that for my Patton routine."

If it seems odd that city school system owns such a vehicle, it is. O'Malley and schools chief Bonnie S. Copeland have identified up to 84 vehicles in the school system's fleet that are equally useless but that are costing the system money. Some of the vehicles have not been used -- or filled with gas -- for two years, officials said.

As part of an effort to help the deficit-riddled city school system cut costs, O'Malley launched an initiative yesterday to significantly reduce its fleet of vehicles.

O'Malley and Copeland gathered at a lot in the 1600 block of Braddish Ave. to announce the auction of up to 84 cars and trucks from the school system's fleet. The first auction, scheduled April 23, would sell off 49 cars.

"We are identifying and pulling out waste in our school system the same way we did in our city government," O'Malley said. "We are saying goodbye to these old vehicles for good and we are saying goodbye to at least this amount of waste."

How many cars are in the school system's fleet?

"Two hundred and sixty-six cars," O'Malley said and with a raised eyebrow added: "276 cars?"

O'Malley said the school system, like city government when he took over in 1999, has not kept close track of its assets. He said Baltimore's fleet management officials, who cut the city fleet from 6,500 to 5,500 vehicles in more than four years, are working with Copeland to find other waste in the fleet.

"It's amazing what happens when you start counting your resources," O'Malley said.

The mayor said that the school system might merge the management of its fleet with the city's fleet maintenance division. Doing so could save the school system approximately $300,000 annually, said Charles Krysiak, chief of city fleet management.

Copeland thanked the mayor for his administration's assistance in helping the school system better manage its finances as it struggles with a $58 million deficit. Last month, the city lent the school system $42 million to help ease its cash shortage this year.

"Although the revenues that will be generated from this fleet are not absolutely significant to reduce our $58 million deficit, it is very significant in another way," Copeland said. "It is significant in looking at ways we can address this deficit creatively."

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