Board talks shared services

Published 9:03 am Saturday, December 12, 2009

ISLE OF WIGHT—Sharing services between the county and the school division is an idea that has been talked about in Isle of Wight for several years. Now, the county and the school division are planning a serious discussion about the possibility of consolidating departments.

The School Board held a work session before its regular meeting Thursday night to discuss shared services, and a joint meeting between the Board of Supervisors and the School Board is planned for Monday night.

“I felt that we needed, as a board, to have a discussion ourselves before we go to that meeting,” said School Board Chairman David Goodrich. He said that the joint meeting is meant to be an open discussion between the two bodies.

“Everything will be laid on the table, and we’ll have positive discussion,” he said. However, he noted that a change wouldn’t happen overnight.

“It’s going to take a period of time of study,” he said.

All areas where there is duplication between the county and the school system will be targeted for consolidation, including legal services, public information, maintenance, payroll and human resources.

Board member Herb DeGroft said he is going into the meeting with “an open mind,” and hopes to come “to some type of agreement that has no negative impact on the classroom, and yet saves money for the taxpayers of Isle of Wight County.”

Isle of Wight County is not alone in its quest to combine services between the county and the school system. Board members said that a number of other districts are also looking into the same thing, and some — like Lynchburg and Pulaski County — have already instituted shared services, with varying degrees of success.

Board member Dr. George Bradby noted one area in which he thinks the school district should take the lead on, if services are consolidated.

“If we’re going to do it, the one thing I think we should lead on should be human resources,” he said. “The others, I think they’re up for grabs.”

While all of the board’s members agreed to go into the meeting with an open mind, board member T. Hayes Griffin said the Board of Supervisors and the School Board need to have a better relationship for any type of shared services arrangement to be successful.

“Our boards won’t even talk to one another,” he said. “We can’t even have a meeting and that’s the first thing we’ve got to do before we can sit down and have an honest discussion about anything.”

Goodrich said that he understands the intent of proposing shared services is to save a significant amount of money.

“If that is the entire intent, then somebody is going to have to prove to me that money is going to be saved,” he said.

The joint meeting of the Board of Supervisors and the School Board will be held at 5 p.m. Monday in the library at Smithfield Middle School.