District looks to private firm for school landscaping, saving $776,718

By: 
Jun. 14, 2013

The newly approved contract will save the district $776,718 annually, while keeping current maintenance workers employed, with slight raises.

BY MATT MENCARINI | STAFF WRITER

In a cost-cutting move, the Volusia County School Board voted to privatize the grounds keeping services at county schools.

With a vote of 4-1, with Diane Smith the lone dissenter, the contract with GCA Services Group, of Knoxville, Tenn., is for $1,292,233 annually, a $776,718 annual savings. Over the five-year life of the deal, effective July 1, the district will save more than $3.88 million.

The company will be responsible for the grounds maintenance of 78 school grounds and 10 sports facilities.

“We were very careful in writing our request for proposal to make sure we included all aspects of grounds keeping ... as far as requiring the vendor to hire our current employees,” said Russ Tysinger, director of maintenance and operations, at the June 11 School Board meeting. “Obviously, we wanted to make sure they got the best wages possible. They were also required ... to offer health benefits, and we asked that they also offer a retirement proposal.”

The five-person committee that evaluated the proposals included Pine Trail Elementary Principal Susan Persis.

“From the principal’s perspective, they were very customer-friendly,” Persis said. “And I felt that GCA was this way with their employees and would be with all the principals. In other words, they would help us if we needed to plant something of if we needed them to mow for a special occasion.”

Joe Perez was also a member of the evaluation committee, as a community representative.

“It is a substantial savings to our district,” he said at the meeting. “It is a substantial savings to the taxpayers, and as a community person, I kind of quasi-represent the taxpayers in this whole process.”

Perez said the cost savings of the privatization of grounds keeping services would not only benefit the taxpayers, but also benefit overall education in Volusia County. With the money saved, he said the county could, theoretically, add approximately 70 teachers.

The GCA Services will hire all recommended current grounds-maintenance staff at their current wages, as of June 30, plus an additional $.36-per-hour increase.

The health benefits package proposed by GCA Services was also listed as the best by the evaluators, and the company’s pension offering was the second best.

The School Board received five proposals for the contract April 19, with two coming from Florida-based businesses, one in Casselberry and another in New Smyrna Beach.

The GCA Services bid was about $163,000 less than the next lowest recieved.