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Thursday, September 15th, 2011

County, schools, townships look into combined buying

By Amy Kronenberger
WAPAKONETA - A new initiative has county officials working to cut costs by sharing services between commissioners, township trustees and school districts.
After passage of the state budget this summer, Congress passed House Bill 153, which in part allows educational service centers to enter into shared service contracts with "any other political subdivision of the state" to save money.
This prompted discussion between Auglaize County Educational Service Center Superintendent Jim Herrholtz and county commissioners two months ago. School officials, township trustees and commissioners met Wednesday to discuss which services could be shared.
"We need to do things smarter, more efficiently and more cost effectively in order to survive," commissioner Doug Spencer told the group.
Herrholtz called the legislation allowing shared services "long overdue."
"Perry Corporation copiers have contracts with almost everyone of us," he said. "If we consolidated those into one contract, we could save a lot of money."
Buying paper in one account for the entire county is another way to save, Herrholtz said.
"I asked our paper vendor how much we could save if we bought two truck loads instead of one," he said. "He guaranteed we could save about $1 per case."
Herrholtz, who announced Wednesday he was resigning to take the associate superintendent job at the Ohio Department of Education, asked county officials to continue brainstorming.
Herrholtz was confident a storage location could be found for supplies bought in bulk.
"Brenda, you have an empty elementary building," he said to Minster superintendent Brenda Boeke. "I bet we could store something there."
A difficult aspect may be the potential of eliminating jobs.
"No one wants to fire employees when we've gotten to know them and know they have families," Herrholtz said. "But if one payroll employee is really good, why not have that person handle the entire county?"
Other shared services suggested were health insurance, bus services and garbage and snow removal contracts.
"There's a lot of possibilities out there," he said. "We just have to be open to discuss and work on them."
Those attending focused on six areas: trash pickup, phone system/information technology, payroll, food vendor, storage and health insurance.
"This is the first time I've ever seen commissioners, township trustees and schools come together in a joint effort," commissioner Don Regula said. "And it's all been Doug (Spencer) and Jim (Herrholtz's) idea. They've been working very hard behind the scenes on this."
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