The Buffalo Public School District is located on the scenic Niagara River at the mouth of Lake Erie in Western New York State. The districtís building engineers are responsible for providing a positive learning and working environment for its 40,000 students, teachers and staff. By a mandate of the cityís Board of Control and the School Board, the administration was charged with assuring the cost and operational effectiveness of the custodial and grounds operations. The associates of Portolan was selected to lead the district in the achievement of this goal.

The Problem

The Buffalo Public School District operates its custodial and grounds operations by a system known as ďThe Contract.Ē The contract system allows for the districtís hiring of building engineers who are solely responsible for the custodial and grounds care at each building. While the engineers are employees of the district, all others doing the custodial and grounds work in each building are employees of the engineer. The district provides funding to the engineers for labor, equipment and supplies based on a formula developed by the district. Any monies unspent by the engineer are additional income for the engineer. While staffing levels are detailed in the contract, the engineers are not required to detail any other expenses. In a time of shrinking enrollment and funds, the district needed to know that it was achieving maximum return on the funds it was spending under this unique system. It needed this input from an unbiased and neutral party. Not knowing the amount of the unspent money was one stumbling block to negotiations with the engineerís union.

The Solution

Portolan, working closely with the districtís administration and engineers provided an in-depth analysis of the contract system. The Portolan project team interviewed current and former Board Members, all senior district administrators, the districtís custodial and grounds managers, building principals and 67 building engineers. The team toured many district buildings to better understand current service levels.

A comprehensive financial and operational review was conducted. This review compared the district to itself, similar districts in traditional service delivery formats and to outsourced service delivery methods.

The Results

The opportunity now exists for meaningful negotiations to resume. The Buffalo City Board of Control, the Board of Education, the administration and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local #409 have unbiased comparative data and operational analysis from which each may make fully informed decisions.