Aiming to ferret out cost savings for both the town and the public school district, the Princeton Council has hired a consulting firm to prepare a shared services feasibility study.
Princeton Council awarded a $30,000 contract to the Center for Governmental Research Inc., which is based in Rochester, N.Y., to carry out the study. The Princeton Public Schools will reimburse the town for its share of the cost of the study.
The Princeton Council approved the resolution awarding the contract at its June 10 meeting, and the school board approved entering into an agreement with the town at its June 11 meeting.
The Princeton Council’s vote was unanimous, but the vote at the school board meeting was 9-1. The dissenting vote was cast by school board member Debbie Bronfeld.
The recommendation to hire a consultant to study possible cost savings measures grew out of an earlier shared services agreement between the town and the school district regarding information technology.
Pleased with the success of the information technology shared services agreement, the school district and the town formed a Joint Shared Services Working Committee in November 2018.
Following a series of meetings, the Joint Shared Services Working Committee determined that a feasibility study should contain several goals – to achieve cost savings, improve the level of services and achieve greater efficiency in delivering those services, and to establish previously unavailable services.
The consultant will study several key functional areas – purchasing, warehousing and document imaging, buildings and grounds/arborist, HVAC (heating and cooling systems), electrical, trash removal, phone service and information technology services.
In addition, the consultant will study facilities maintenance and fleet maintenance, with the objective of finding cost savings, according to a memorandum from the committee to Princeton Council and the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education.
The Joint Shared Services Working Committee interviewed three consultants. It opted for the Center for Governmental Research Inc. because the consultant had helped Princeton during the consolidation process, when the former Princeton Borough and former Princeton Township merged to create one town.
“The Center for Governmental Research Inc. had previously navigated a successful consolidation study and had familiarity with Princeton municipal government and its operations,” the memorandum said.
While the Princeton Council was unanimous in its support to retain the Center for Governmental Research, there was less unanimity at the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education – although the school board approved it by a 9-1 vote.
School board vice president Greg Stankiewicz endorsed the Center for Governmental Research because it is familiar with Princeton municipal government through its work on the consolidation of the former Princeton Borough and Princeton Township.
Stankiewicz said he also liked the consultant’s “academic approach” to the study, and that it would be a good fit. He expressed hope that the study would point to possible short-term savings and also other projects that might lead to more efficient services.
But the school board member who voted against the resolution, Bronfeld, expressed some hesitation because the town’s track record with consultants “hasn’t been so great.”
School board member Brian McDonald said that while he agreed with Bronfeld, this consultant performed a major portion of the work on the consolidation study. The result was $3 million in savings, he said.
The worst possible case is that the consultant will find very little in savings, but the best case scenario is that there will be some savings – even if it is not $3 million, McDonald said. The consultant should be able to tell the two parties where it does not make sense to share services, he said.