Bugg explains decision to seek custodial service bids

On March 29, the Unit 1 Board of Education published a public notice announcing it would seek bids for the outsourcing of custodial services, a move that drew questions and a few comments on social media sites.
    To clarify  the intent of the Board of Education in seeking bids, and its plan to hold a public meeting in June on the concept, Superintendent Dr. Kent Bugg issued a statement during the board’s April 5 meeting:
    “This Board of Education has a long history of making data driven decisions and for being as transparent as possible with those decisions. This focus of the board is one of the reasons our school district was identified by the recent statewide Niche ratings as the 43rd best school district in Ilinois, and we were the only school district in Grundy County to make the top 100 list.
    “It is also one of the reasons our school district is in such a strong financial position where we can provide the best possible services to our students and serve our taxpayers by providing one of the lowest K-12 tax rates in the state.
    “Furthermore, this board’s planning has positioned our school district’s fiscal reserve position to where we can withstand any profound funding changes without devastating our academic programming or overwhelming our taxpayers.
    “Finally, this board’s commitment to transparency has allowed us to be one of 15 school districts in the state to receive the Illinois Policy Institute’s Sunshine Award for transparency in operations.
    “The recent decision of the board to solicit bids for custodial services is consistent with this board’s desire to gather as much data as possible prior to making any final decisions. What the board had done thus far is to announce that you are investigating the realities and facts of custodial outsourcing, which is information the board wanted to determine the competitiveness of the salary and benefit package the district provides our custodians.
    “Once the board gathers this information, they will use the data to determine any necessary and appropriate future actions.
    “The board is currently in the collective bargaining process with the custodial union. In requesting proposals from outside vendors to provide custodial services, there are strict statutory timelines and notification requirements that the board is required to follow. The board secured experienced legal counsel to ensure that all of these statutory requirements were met.
    “The board also did not want the request for proposals to be public until they had the opportunity to be open and honest in communicating their reasoning for this decision to the custodial union. It was not until after full disclosure to the union that the board officially posted their request for proposals.
    “This board has a long history of going to market to ensure that the district is always providing the best possible services for our students at the best possible value to the taxpayers we serve. Whether it be transportation services, capital projects, or insurance broker services, this board has a consistent history of securing proposals and thoroughly investigating all options before making any final decisions ... as opposed to the easy alternative, which is to always accept the status quo.
    “There have been many times where the board has analyzed requests for proposals and rejected all of them, because the result would not be in the best interest of the school district. A recent example of that was when the board decided to go out for bid for transportation services, but after reviewing the data, determined it was in the best interest of the school district to reject those bids and to extend the current contract with Illinois Central.
    “Other times, the board has used this competitive bidding process to secure equivalent services at a much better price.
    “Contrary to the public opinion of some, the board has not made the decision to outsource custodial services. What they have made the decision to do is gather all of the information possible in analyzing our current custodial services program. This is exactly how the Board of Education should be exercising their fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers prior to making any district decision.
    “While waiting for the RFP proposals to come in, the board is absolutely committed to continuing to bargain in good faith with the members of the custodial union. The Board of Education values not only all of our custodial staff, but all of our employees and we are grateful for the pride all of them take in their work and their dedication to our schools, staff and children.”
    As indicated in Bugg’s statement, the Board of Education is actively negotiating with its custodial union on a new collective bargaining agreement. The current contract between the district and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73 is set to expire June 30.