Town, School Consolidation Review Resuming Under New Committee
The Boards of Education and Finance both recently began discussions about seating an ad-hoc committee that would pick up on work initiated in 2012, examining how the town and school district could consolidate certain services to achieve greater taxpayer savings and efficiencies.
Finance Board Chairman John Kortze told The Newtown Bee following an April 23 meeting that his panel approved a resolution to establish such a committee in cooperation with the Legislative Council, which would also involve the Board of Selectmen.
“We need to figure out what can be done,” Mr Kortze said. “We hope this new committee can identify the scope and scale of what we’re looking at.”
Mr Kortze said the panel would be able to utilize a 2012 report developed by Blum Shapiro, and would help “position all the leading town boards and commissions out in front of the topic.”
“I expect they will start with examining functions and then develop an organizational chart so [officials] could begin discussing areas where certain functions overlap,” he said. “We have a statutory responsibility to do it, and there is a consensus among town leaders that they want to do it,” Mr Kortze said. “We need to have that conversation. What makes it difficult is when we have to start talking about [eliminating] positions.”
At the time of its release, the Blum Shapiro team recommended the town and school district implement a “Shared Services Model” using “a transitional approach to phasing into a new organizational structure” as follows:
Phase 1: Merge school district human resources and payroll with town;
Phase 2: Merge town maintainers with school district;
Phase 3: Merge town information technology with school district;
Phase 4: Merge school district financial operations with town potential savings outlined.
The consultants said that “utilizing current employees in new structure provides institutional knowledge of both organizations, provides stabilization, and enables existing employees ability to ensure new organization is a good fit.”
First Selectman Pat Llodra told The Bee that after four years, she believes the Blum Shapiro study is still viable because it has already identified numerous areas where the town and district could consolidate services to affect greater cost savings and efficiencies.
“A lot has happened since that report was released,” Mrs Llodra said, referring to the 12/14 tragedy. “But we did agree as a result of the report, to take the initiative and merge the town and district bookkeeping and financial management system.”
She said now it is time to more deeply analyze services being provided in the town and district finance and business offices, the human resources departments, information technology, and across both the town and school district’s facilities management teams with an eye on consolidation.
School Superintendent Joseph V. Erardi, Jr, said he was pleased that there is support with the elected boards to further investigate best practice with shared services.
“There is simply no downside to the conversation,” Dr Erardi added.