Burlington County Freeholders last week approved the merger of two county schools under one administration—a move designed to generate cost savings through shared services—by authorizing the consolidation of the school boards into one board.
For the past year, freeholders have been “cross-pollinating” the boards of education for the Burlington County Institute of Technology (BCIT) and Special Services School District by appointing current members to serve on both boards.
The process—intended to familiarize everyone with each school district’s operation, mission and program—will reach its final stage on Aug. 23, when the boards will reorganize and consolidate into a single “Board of Education of the Special Services School District and the Vocational School District of the County of Burlington.”
“This merger was intended to create efficiencies and cost savings, which, at the end of the day, translate into tax dollar savings,” said Freeholder Director Bruce Garganio. “We have already seen significant savings through the sharing of assets and resources, and it can only get better.”
Dr. Donald P. Lucas, who has served as the “shared” superintendent for both schools since June 2011, quantified the savings at $405,000. Some $240,000 of that is attributed to personnel changes; the remaining $165,000 comes from efficiencies in food services, transportation, technology and security.
“We still have areas to explore,” said Lucas, “and it should be easier to advance that agenda now that all our board members are familiar with the workings of both the vocational school and the special services district.”
The board members include Christopher Baxter, of Moorestown; Kathleen Burgess, of Mount Laurel; Leon Jones, of Medford; John Ferry, of Moorestown; Robert Silcox, of Mount Holly; and Paula Lee, of Mount Laurel.
Freeholder Leah Arter, who serves as freeholder liaison to the schools, said board members are “to be commended for embracing this change. Both schools have an outstanding reputation and record, and I’m confident that they will continue to provide a quality education. This is about eliminating a duplication of services. The programs remain intact.”
Lucas said the combined administration has resulted in the sharing of transportation, creating time and dollar savings by putting school bussing under one operation and by consolidating routes.
Both schools now also share the same outside vendor for food services, and BCIT has been able to expand its use of the Educational Services Unit at Special Services to hire special education teacher assistants when applicable.
The BCIT Technology Department has been restructured and a shared services agreement has been approved by both boards of education.