LongIsland.com

Collaboration Pays Off Big for Nassau County Schools

Written by Vickie Moller  |  19. March 2012

 In efforts to save Long Island taxpayers money, since 2006 Nassau County school officials have been planning the Nassau School and Municipal Savings Initiative, a collaborative effort among Nassau County, Nassau BOCES, Nassau County school districts and public agencies to reduce costs by sharing non-instructional support services. So far, the initiative has saved $9.5 million with more substantial savings expected.

To undergird their efforts, in January 2009, Nassau BOCES, Nassau County, and more than 35 school districts submitted an application to the New York State Department of State for a 21st Century Demonstration Grant Program. A $1 million grant was awarded to them in July 2009; and in the fall of that same year, the project began in earnest.

The initiative, guided by a Steering Committee, involves pursuing the implementation of four cost-cutting shared service opportunities, each headed by a subcommittee:  cooperative purchasing, information technology and telecommunications (ITT), internal audit and out-of-district transportation.

The cooperative purchasing subcommittee is working to leverage the collective buying power of Nassau School Districts, BOCES, the county and other municipalities in order to maximize savings through large quantity purchasing. Twenty-five school districts and BOCES have already participated, and estimated savings for the first year were $400,000.

In hopes of establishing “NassauNet”, a fully-integrated countywide IT communications network, the information technology and telecommunications (ITT) subcommittee is seeking bids for the purchase of cell phone services and data plans and is working to expand its reach to other municipalities. Nassau BOCES is currently working with 16 school districts to consolidate their telephone and Internet networks. Additional districts will be added annually until all 56 are on a single consolidated network.

It is estimated that the cellular initiative will yield annual savings of $160,000, and initial “NassauNet” savings of $60,000 are expected. Fiber conversion is likely to yield $50,000 per year, and the group predicts savings of $240,000 through the elimination of unnecessary phone lines.

Through the collective purchase of auditing services and increased cooperation among auditors, the internal audit committee estimates savings of $53,000 and reports that participating school districts have already saved approximately 30 percent.

 The group is also working to develop a countywide out-of-district transportation consortium that will promote more efficient routing and reduce costs. So far, 28 school districts have participated in the first bid, and a bid for the 2011-12 school year was recently completed. Savings for the first year were $200,000.

Other shared service initiatives include a natural gas bid, with expected savings of $2.5 million, that BOCES, the county and 6 school districts have participated in and a bid for ordinary fuel. Under review are shared fuel facilities, school supplies/textbook purchase/distribution and emergency equipment.

Developers of the initiative are also working to remove legal and regulatory barriers to cooperation between Nassau BOCES, school districts and municipalities; seeking the participation of additional school districts and public agencies and developing formats for public interaction. They hope the initiative will serve as a prototype for similar multi-jurisdictional collaborations in New York state and nationally.

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