Oregon school board member P.J. Kapfhammer wants a plan in place to cut expenses after learning that the district paid over $400,000 to two companies last year for electrical repairs.
At a school board meeting last month, Kapfhammer said the board could find savings in some of the district’s business agreements and contracts.
“I keep hearing we’re going backwards financially. But business is still business as usual down here because of the way we’re doing things,” he said.
“We spent almost $500,000 in the last 12 months to two firms – very good quality firms, but for mostly non-bidded work. We call them, they do the work, and we pay the bills. We have to start tightening the purse strings in here real quick,” said Kapfhammer. “Every report we keep getting is how we’re going backwards, but it’s business as usual. I’ve never heard a report about how we can trim some fat and save some money.”
Dean Sandwisch, the district’s business manager, said the district saved $50,000 by hiring the companies.
“We entered into a service agreement with them and actually saved the district $50,000. That was a cost savings measure. We were paying significantly more than that,” said Sandwisch.
“Did we compare it to other firms?” asked Kapfhammer.
“Yes,” said Sandwisch. “If you would like me to shop again, I would be happy to do that.”
Most of the jobs are not required to be bid out, added Sandwisch.
“As a businessman, I try and save as much money as I can,” said Kapfhammer. “I am constantly out there looking for better ways to do it. I’ve had discussions with you about this already.”
Board President Dick Gabel wanted to end the discussion.
“I’m glad you’re having the conversation, but I think we’re getting into a conversation that needs to go somewhere else after this meeting,” said Gabel.
“I think the public is entitled to know, Dick,” said Kapfhammer.
“I think they are, too,” said Gabel.
“All I’m asking you to do is get your questions, bring it to Dean and sit down and go over the conversation,” said Gabel.
“I’ve already done that,” said Kapfhammer.
“Let’s just do it one more time,” said Gabel. “I’ll even come with him and sit down and talk to you.”
“I’m not going into any meeting with you,” Kapfhammer said to Gabel.
Kapfhammer said he would also like to review the board’s contract with the attorney for the district.
“I would love to reevaluate that because that is a lot of money. I got a letter saying I could be criminally charged for talking about this. But that’s a lot of money we paid out this month. Twenty-five grand is a lot of money. So I want to sit down – we’re not even in a lawsuit. If we’re going to talk about how much money is leaving the district and how bad we’re doing, I want to sit down with this,” said Kapfhammer.
He also questioned other costs to the district.
“We paid an administrator to go to his own kid’s basketball game – we paid his fuel mileage. If we’re going broke, why are we not adjusting some of these expenditures? We’re going backwards here, people. Let’s be truthful here. Everyone is supposed to sacrifice, but it’s business as usual,” said Kapfhammer.
Fruth said compensating for mileage between buildings is contractual.
“How we got it in our contracts where we’re paying an administrator to go watch his kid’s basketball game?” asked Kapfhammer. “Take one for the team, guys. Don’t submit miles for it. If we’re really going broke…if it’s this dire, before we talk levies, before we stick it to the community, I would love to sit down and see how we could save money as a board, so the community doesn’t have to give as much.”
Gabel said he and Sandwisch can go over any proposals with Kapfhammer.
“I will sit down with you and Mr. Sandwisch and the superintendent and anyone else and go over any proposals you want us to look at to make sure that they’re being properly represented and we’re not paying too much, which I don’t believe we’re anywhere near that,” said Gabel.
“A half a million dollars?” asked Kapfhammer.
“Let’s take a look at it,” said Gabel.
“I did,” said P.J.
“I would like to see it myself,” said Gabel.
“You’re in charge of this, Dick, it’s your committee,” said Kapfhammer. “I brought this up with you and Mr. Sandwisch in our first meeting. So don’t act like you didn’t know about this.”
“I’m not saying it wasn’t. Everything was brought up, and everything was checked out okay,” said Gabel.
“Do we have to go through you if we want to talk to Dean, is that how it works now?” board member Jeff Ziviski asked Gabel. “I’m quite capable of talking to Dean by myself about the contracts. I have a financial background and do contracts all the time.”
Gabel said it was the board president’s responsibility to be in such meetings.
“I’ll look into it, and I think it is,” said Gabel.
“You’re able to sit in on any committee meeting, if you want,” countered Ziviski. “But an individual board member meeting with someone, I don’t think so.”
“I’ll be glad to sit down with whoever wants to talk about it and figure out what they want to know,” said Gabel.
“What you’re missing is that Dean is the one who knows it,” said Ziviski. “That’s why we want to speak with him. He’s the public official we employ that we regard as our expert. That’s why he’s up there speaking tonight.”
“You guys call me when you want to meet. I’ll be there,” said Gabel.
After the meeting, Kapfhammer said the two companies that the district paid over $400,000 last year for electric repairs were Hoffman and Harpst and Tas Inc. Electrical. Tas is owned by Oregon Council President Tom Susor.
“They both have good reputations,” he said. “But I was surprised to see the district paid over $400,000 to them for electric services in 2011, basically for maintenance.”
He added that he was going to meet with Sandwisch on Thursday, May 3, to discuss the matter further.
The next school board meeting is scheduled for May 15.