All eyes on streamlining school costs


Discussion continues about sharing services among three districts A s revenue sources for school districts continue to dry up in the downturned economy, the three districts in the region have started discussing sharing more services to streamline costs.

Both the Millstone Township School District and Roosevelt Public School have approached Upper Freehold Regional School District Superintendent Dick Fitzpatrick about the possibility of sharing his leadership and other school services.

Fitzpatrick reported at the Jan. 6 Board of Education meeting that Roosevelt seeks to share a superintendent. Roosevelt Public School plans to keep its principal full time. The school has 90 students, 14 full-time staff and 10 part-time staff, so the superintendent’s involvement would be limited, he said.

“The primary involvement of the superintendent would be a board meeting monthly, and in a limited way,” Fitzpatrick said .

Roosevelt also seeks to share the services of media center personnel, business office support and staff development trainers. Although the Upper Freehold Regional Board of Education will have to review the requests, Fitzpatrick offered his opinion on some of the issues. He said it would be easy to share media center personnel and a staff development trainer.

“They are happy to be independent but need shared services in order to continue,” Fitzpatrick said of Roosevelt Public School. “They asked the same of East Windsor and Millstone. They have asked us to analyze costs and to continue to talk with them.”

Millstone also seeks to share the costs and services of a superintendent and has asked Fitzpatrick to present a concept of what doing so with the Upper Freehold Regional School District would look like. The two districts already have a send/receive relationship with regard to students. Millstone sends its high school-aged students to Allentown High School. This year, Millstone also started paying Upper Freehold Regional School District to provide most of its school bus transportation. Millstone currently has one seat of representation on the Upper Freehold Regional Board of Education .

Fitzpatrick said he plans to talk to the Millstone Board of Education about a number of shared services issues, including how board meetings would be affected. He said he would also like to discuss the possibilities of sharing a business administrator and other business office employees, staff development trainers, a board secretary and an athletic director. Additionally, he believes there is the possibility for sharing technology services, and mentioned that he would like to define what roles assistant superintendents and other supervisors would have.

“This would not be done immediately but over the next three years,” he said. “We would start with actions that are easy to look at and move on to other projects in years two and three after the first projects are implemented and evaluated.”

Fitzpatrick said he does see cost savings in sharing services with surrounding districts.

“The $2 million we have to raise [for the next budget] can come from shared services,” he said.

Part of the $2 million shortfall in revenue that the district anticipates for the next budget comes as a result of the cuts made last year that decreased the amount of tuition it could charge Millstone to send students to Allentown High School. The approved tuition rate for next year is $12,481 per student, which is $524 less than the rate this budget year, according to Business Administrator Diana Schiraldi.

Schiraldi said the district could expect $1 million less revenue from Millstone as a result of both the lower tuition rate and decreased enrollment. Millstone will send 10 fewer students to Allentown High School next year.

The Upper Freehold Regional Board of Education went into executive session at the end of the Jan. 6 meeting to discuss shared services. The board also had a shared-services meeting scheduled with Millstone at 6 p.m. Jan. 7.