Greene County Group Hopes To Improve School Budgets Through Sharing

Oct 22, 2009

School boards in Ohio are under a lot of economic pressure right now. They have to tighten their budgets, and on top of that, the shape of Ohio's state budget leaves questions about how much funding schools will receive in the future. In Greene County, there's a grass roots effort to save money in schools. It's got the attention of Governor Strickland.

It's one of those important lessons we all learned about in kindergarten -- how to share. Now, a group made up of Greene County School officials hope to take that concept and use it to actually improve kindergarten and all the other grades in the public school system.

It's called Shared Service Delivery. Project manager Jane Dockery says that means schools can save money by banding together.

"Our proposal is to basically look in every corner and under every rock," she says. "How could we do things? How can we share what one school is already doing with another so we don't have to replicate that expensive service."

School districts could go in together on the cost of things like transportation, food service and administrative services. It's not a new idea. Both the public and private sectors have been using Shared Service Delivery for years. Even in Greene County, schools already have been doing this.

As an example, Dockery points to Yellow Springs Schools and the Greene County Educational Service Center, who joined forces to lower costs on food service.

"In one year, it saved Yellow Springs Schools $9,500, and it saved $33,00 a year for the Educational Service Center," says Dockery.

That kind of savings allows schools to be more efficient. Across Ohio, officials are looking for creative solutions to crunched budgets. That's why Governor Strickland met with the group earlier this week and said he hoped Greene County could be a model for the entire state.

"Efforts like shared services are just the kind of great ideas that the governor wants to continue seeing throughout the state in the years to come and Greene County is truly leading by example," says Amanda Wurst, a spokewoman for Governor Strickland.

Wurst says this is a way to share resources and still maintain the identity of individual school districts. That's one difference between this plan and out-right consolidation. But not everyone is on board. Dockery says some school districts are just not ready.

"Perhaps that might be in a district where there's so many crisis already to handle? Perhaps that's in a district that says 'we're doing ok'," says Dockery.

Dockery says shared services works better when everyone participates, but it's not necessary. She says they plan on moving forward. Task forces are being formed to look at all options. Dockery says she hopes that once they prove this can work, all of the school districts in Greene County will see the benefits of sharing and join in.