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NoCal school district votes to hire custodial company

After much discussion and debate over whether to contract out North Callaway School District’s custodial and maintenance services, the board voted to do so.

The decision did not have the approval of all seven members, however. It passed five to two with Regan Love and Patsy Austin voting against it at the Thursday night meeting.

After obtaining bids from two custodial companies, Kellie O’Donley, district business manager, recommended the board go with PCI. She told the board members that contracting with the company would save the district about $100,000 a year. Contracting with PCI means the current custodial and maintenance staff would no longer be district employees but PCI employees. As district employees, the staff is covered by PEERS, Missouri’s public school employee retirement system. Under the new company, they would no longer be covered by PEERS, a system O’Donley called a “lucrative” retirement program.

“That is one drawback for our current employees,” O’Donley told the board.

Superintendent Bryan Thomsen said not being covered by PEERS was the number one concern the custodial/maintenance staff had when he and O’Donley met with them to discuss the change. O’Donley said employees who have paid into PEERS would not lose their money but would not be able to continue with the program under PCI. She added that some employees who have been with the district a substantial amount of time would be offered early retirement incentives if they did not want to continue with the new company.

O’Donley also listed the advantages of contracting to PCI including how the company would offer quality control, training for the staff, performance-based raises for employees and opportunities for employee advancement.

“We’re not doing this because our staff’s not doing a great job,” she said. “The bottom line is money.”

Board Member Dennis Zerr said even though it’s “tough” for the district’s employees to change to a new employer, “we need to make some cuts somewhere.”

Dan McMurtry, president of the board, said the board decided to look into the option of changing over its services to save money.

“We have to have a balanced budget,” Dan McMurtry, president of the board, added. “There’s only so much money in the pot.”

Board Member Patsy Austin said she didn’t feel confident in voting on the issue with the information that was provided. She said the decision concerned too many people for her to vote on something she still had questions about.

“I feel that I’m here to represent the patrons,” Austin said, adding that when she’s asked questions about an issue, “I hate to say I don’t know.”

Member Regan Love agreed with Austin, saying he was concerned about the employees in question and wanted more information before accepting PCI’s bid.

Although Austin and Love wanted to table the vote, it passed without their votes.

Member Jennifer Bondurant said changes in the budget have to be made, and this option allows the district to make them.

“There’s not many places we can make significant changes in the budget,” she said.

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