Shared services vital to schools

— Peru and Saranac Central schools share payroll duties.

Saranac further shares a consultant with Plattsburgh City School for administrative evaluations.

As the economy continues to struggle and school districts cut further into budgets, resulting in layoffs for many, shared services is steadily catching on in some parts of the North Country.

“It is absolutely important,” said Peru Central School Superintendent A. Paul Scott. “School districts have always been engaged with sharing services and programs, but there seems to be an increase in scope of sharing under way.”

Peru and Saranac schools utilize one individual for payroll services through Champlain Valley Educational Services.

“Peru experienced a retirement this school year and we are sharing that essential function between two school districts, and so far it is working well,” Scott said. “The fact two districts can work together and find ways to streamline, it is virtually reducing the cost by 50 percent.”

That’s vital for school districts that have faced three years of frozen or reduced aid, which at Peru resulted in a $41.4 million budget budget passed this past May that axed 15 positions under $1.15 million in cuts.

“In addition to sharing payroll services between two districts,” Scott said, “we are doing it through BOCES, because our districts receive BOCES aid for a portion of that essential service.”

Saranac and Peru further share a hockey team.

“It is a well-received partnership that affords both districts the capacity to provide a hockey program.”

This will be a particularly challenging budget year, Scott said, and school districts should explore sharing services whenever it is feasible.

But for services, such as back-office functions, it is important to consider doing so when a position opens through attrition, Scott said.

“When you lay someone off you add to unemployment,” pointed out Saranac Central School Superintendent Kenneth Cringle.

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