Despite facing a $17 million district budget deficit, the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board voted Tuesday night against exploring the possibility of outsourcing various functions.
Instead, the board will consider recommendations that have been made by employee groups and administrators to cut costs.
"There's a lot of data that says (outsourcing) doesn't work," said TUSD Board Member Cam Juarez. "I'd rather our staff, not the staff of the vendors, spend more time on finding other solutions."
Juarez and Board President Adelita Grijalva voiced concerns that savings could be realized in the first year, but not in subsequent years should the vendors increase the cost of services.
Board members Michael Hicks and Mark Stegeman supported the option of allowing the district to seek proposals for services, but that was defeated by Juarez, Grijalva and Board Clerk Kristel Ann Foster.
The recommendations that will be negotiated next were discussed privately by the board in executive session but not specifically in public. The Governing Board told TUSD's staff to negotiate the terms of those budget cuts, which will come back before the board in April for a final vote.
While it is unclear exactly which recommendations will be negotiated, the teachers union submitted numerous options including suspension of a personal day for all employees for one year and using certified staff workers and administrators as substitute teachers two to five days a year.
The employee group representing blue-collar workers suggested that a cost savings can be produced by having it leverage health insurance and life insurance for its members.
This is the second time the Governing Board has considered outsourcing. In January, the board gave the district the green light to investigate advantages of outsourcing in operations, custodians, ground maintenance, transportation, human resources, payroll, benefits and technology operations. That was approved 3-2 with Juarez, Stegeman and Hicks voting yes. Grijalva and Foster voted no.
Weeks later, Juarez changed his mind and asked the board to reconsider the vote, saying he would rather work with employees than hold the threat of outsourcing over their heads.
To decrease the budget deficit, the Governing Board has so far approved the closures of 11 schools and some job cuts for teachers, counselors, librarians, principals and central administration. Those reductions add up to a savings of about $14 million.
It is expected that once the negotiations are complete, the cuts will make up the remainder of the shortfall, Grijalva said.
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