A private company that oversees such things as janitorial and custodial services for the East Baton Rouge Parish school system plans to cut $500,000 a year from its $26.1 million annual operations in exchange for a two-year extension of its contract scheduled to expire in 2014.
Aramark, with headquarters in Philadelphia, said the cuts will amount to $1.8 million over a four-year period.
The company also is promising to put up an additional $1 million unrestricted grant — $750,000 this year, $250,000 in 2012 — to help the school system’s bottom line.
The School Board voted 8-2 on Thursday in favor of the contract extension through 2016.
School Board members Connie Bernard and Evelyn Ware- Jackson vote against the extension. Board member Randy Lamana was absent.
The school system cut about $33 million from its general operating budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year and, at last estimate, was looking to cut another $34 million for the 2012-13 fiscal year.
Aramark representatives have indicated the company would meet its goals in cuts by not filling positions as they become open, but said some layoffs are possible if the company deems it necessary.
In the process, the company is pledging to “maintain current quality and standards.”
Aramark’s budget-cutting effort was prompted during the school system’s budget-cutting debate in the spring.
The company will use similar strategies as the school system used when it turns to its own 260 employees in Baton Rouge and 400 part-time night contractors, said Terrance Ransfer, a vice president with Aramark.
Ransfer said his company plans to “continue to raise the bar” even with the cutbacks envisioned.
Bernard said even with the cutbacks, the contract still includes an annual increase in money paid out to Aramark, which she said is unacceptable when school employees have seen their wages frozen.
“As long as our employees remain at the rate they’re at, I would like to see a little give in the contract,” she said.
Ware-Jackson said she had a problem with Aramark seeking an extension of its contract in exchange for the $1 million “grant.”
“If it’s a grant, it’s a grant,” she said. “I just have a problem with offering a grant and asking for an extension of the contract.”
Both Bernard and Ware-Jackson expressed concern about the quality of the night-time custodians hired by Aramark, saying some rooms aren’t cleaned well enough or custodians leave rooms unlocked after cleaning them.
Also Thursday, the School Board agreed unanimously to locate a long-planned $17 million career-oriented high school campus on a 200-acre mixed-income housing development in the Smiley Heights subdivision in the Melrose East area.
To locate the high school there, the School Board is entering into a memorandum of understanding with of parish Redevelopment Authority, which is leading the project.
The board gave Superintendent John Dilworth the leeway to continue negotiating some sections of the contract that the Redevelopment Authority wants more work on before signing on to the agreement.
The Smiley Heights redevelopment project is one that city leaders have been envisioning for more than five years.
A key component of the project is that both the school system’s new career school and a new eastern campus of Baton Rouge Community College would be on the 200 acres.
The Redevelopment Authority has purchase agreements with all 11 property owners, including Tulane University which owns half the property.
BRCC is planning to put a transportation and automotive training program on the Smiley Heights property.
That is planned as a $13 million, 60,000-square-foot facility.
The career high school campus that the school system plans to build will house the Career Academy, a charter school that began operating in August on the closed campus of Brookstown Elementary School.
The goal is to expand that school to as many 700 students, with about half going to school full time and the rest coming in part of the day for other high schools to learn career trades.
The board put off approving the creation of a private foundation to help it to raise money in addition to what taxpayers provide.
“We got a little ahead of ourselves,” said Domoine Rutledge, general counsel, in urging the delay.