The Oregon school board decided not to renew a contract with TAS, Inc., Electrical Contractors and hired its own electrician to save the district $50,000 per year.
Dean Sandwisch, director of business affairs for the district, said electrical bills had ballooned under TAS in the last five years.
The company had been hired on an “on call” basis five years ago, he said.
“When we had an emergency or we had an issue, we called in an electrician, and they came in, so we were paying for that call-in fee. In 2010, we entered into a maintenance agreement that provided us with an on-site electrician three days per week. That agreement saved us $28,000 from the time we were calling in to going with a maintenance agreement. But that very quickly change,” he said. Due to increased initiatives implemented by the district, “we were using that electrician more and more and more.”
In fact, he added, the district was paying TAS about $78 per hour.
“It became feasible, even desirable, to have that person hired in-house,” he said.
The board hired electrician Brian O’Connor full-time when school started in the fall.
“We’re saving a great deal of money because, including benefits, we’re probably paying in the low $30 per hour. So we have a tremendous savings potential by having the electrician in-house. We’re looking at about a $50,000 savings per year. How could we afford not to do this?” said Sandwisch.
The district is also looking at doing the same with the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) company.
“We’re still looking at that because this person is not just HVAC. It’s a lot more complex. We’re currently interviewing. That is still on the board,” he said.
The district is still looking at ways to cut costs, he said, while not affecting student programs.
“We’re looking at every turn,” he added, “because we want to be great stewards of taxpayer dollars. These dollars are precious. We can funnel these dollars operationally back into the classrooms,” he said.
School Board President P.J. Kapfhammer said the district can focus only on 20 percent of the budget to make cuts.
“I have worked a lot of hours trying to figure out how to save money. What most people don’t understand is that 80 percent of our budget is staff, which is a necessary service to function in our district. With the loss of revenue that is coming, we are very limited on what we can save money on,” said Kapfhammer.
He praised Sandwisch for finding the budget cuts.
“I think Dean is the best in northwest Ohio. No one has done more to save money in the school system that Dean has. I’ve been in meetings with Mr. Sandwich. We are constantly looking at angles to save this district money because that revenue can then be put back into educational services,” he said.
“We’ve lost a lot of revenue. But that’s going to offset that loss. If I can go after that 20 percent, that’s been my goal all along. That is money we can use. For the record - because it’s tough when you do these things because people don’t know the whole story. I’ve had people come up to me and ask why we’re doing this, why are we hiring an electrician? We’re saving tens of thousands, and in the long run, hundreds of thousands of dollars by doing this. And that’s money I know this board will look into reinvesting in education. That’s the goal of this board,” he said.
Kapfhammer, a long time supporter of Oregon Mayor Mike Seferian, disputed rumors that the district is letting TAS go because of politics. TAS is owned by Sandy Susor, wife of former Council President Tom Susor, who is an electrical contractor and operations manager with TAS. Tom was defeated by Seferian in the mayor’s race in November.
“There’s a lot of rumors floating around about why this was done,” said Kapfhammer. “This wasn’t done for political reasons. This was done to save the district money and reinvesting in education.” The increased costs of doing business with TAS, he said, “added up.”
“If I can shave some of that off and put it back into education, this is what I’m good at. I’m a businessman and I look at what I can do to save money,” he said.