Ongoing collaborations between School Districts 65 and 202 are yielding large cost savings for both Districts, according to a presentation at a joint meeting of the School Boards on Feb. 13.
Mary Brown, District 65 Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, and Mary Rodino, District 202 Chief Financial Officer, reported that cross-district collaborations have resulted in estimated cumulative savings over seven years of $3,224,054 for District 65 and $2,760,727 for District 202.
The larger savings have been made in the areas of Chromebook purchases, audit services, property tax appeals litigation, and attorney fees. Both Districts have also seen additional savings and revenues from collaboration in areas such as TIF payments from the City of Evanston, as well as reduced costs from co-op participation in insurance and food purchases.
“While the two School Districts are legally two separate units of government, we do recognize that there are areas for shared cost savings,” said District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon. “I am very proud of the teams at both School Districts that are constantly exploring cost savings opportunities. We are committed to getting the ‘biggest bang for the buck’ for our students and for our taxpayers.”
The Districts continue to explore additional cost savings strategies. Ms. Rodino said that committees and purchasing groups continue to meet and explore new possibilities. The technology departments are looking at ways to maximize savings with the joint purchase of software, technology infrastructure, and consulting services when appropriate. They are also looking at collaborative opportunities such as sharing expertise and classroom tech maintenance. The Districts are also looking at savings through space sharing, professional development, landscaping, web Trak (online payment), and janitorial, art, and science supplies.
Jonathan Baum, District 202 Board Member said, “We know both Districts are facing severe financial strain, and we also know our biggest expense is employment. To this point, are we looking at joint employment opportunities?”
Ms. Rodino said the Districts “have talked about and are doing” some sharing of specialty staff. District 65 currently shares it’s occupational and physical therapists. “We are definitely looking at all areas,” she said.
“Given the financial challenges currently facing District 65, we continue to make every effort to reduce expenses wherever possible. Working collaboratively with our colleagues at ETHS, both Districts were able to identify areas for cost savings without sacrificing on the quality of service or programming in our schools,” said Paul Goren, District 65 Superintendent.
Candance Chow, District 65 Board president, said that in public forums about the upcoming referendum, there “is interest and concern around the community about what can be done. The community is not looking at us as two Districts, but education providers, and I think we need to look at ourselves that way too.”