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Advice: Cut Rock Hill school custodians

Cut down on custodians, hire private grounds crews and get rid of your dump trucks, a cost-cutting expert told the Rock Hill school board Monday night.

Custodians emerged as a key focus on a list of suggestions to help school officials deal with a massive budget shortfall that could bring 100 job cuts, fewer programs and other changes.

Rock Hill could reduce its custodial staff by 43 full-time positions and still remain above the national average for custodians per square foot, said Linda Recio of Florida-based Evergreen Solutions. Currently, 95 custodians clean halls, classrooms and bathrooms, in addition to more hired through private contractors.

"Custodians is an area where you are significantly overstaffed," Recio said.

Rock Hill schools agreed in January to hire Recio's firm for $32,000.

Board members Jim Vining and Jason Silverman opposed the decision.

The firm spent three months doing interviews and comparing Rock Hill to other school systems.

Now, district leaders will implement as many of the ideas as possible, school board Chairman Bob Norwood said.

"We don't want to spend money on a consultant and then not use the advice," Norwood said.

Recio also recommended trimming the number of supervisors in the operations department and giving front-line workers more leadership duties.

Recio later met with board members to discuss personnel matters in a closed-door executive session.

In the public talk, Recio told school officials they don't need six dump trucks. Go to an equipment rental company and rent trucks when you need them, she said.

The district could save $9.9 million over a five-year period by heeding each of the 30 or so recommendations, Recio said. The schools face a budget shortfall of at least $12 million amid deep cuts from the state brought on by the recession.

Another idea: Charge higher prices to groups that rent school facilities.

Rentals bring in $76,000 per year but could potentially generate four times that much, Recio said.

The suggestion touched on a sensitive spot for board members.

Some groups think the district already charges too much, Vining said. Others make comparisons, Norwood said.

"They'll say, 'Well, Clover didn't charge us last time,'" Norwood said. "We have to contend with that a lot of times."

The report pointed out several positives. Recio lauded the district for exceptionally clean facilities, strong staff training programs and a time and record-keeping system that keeps precise information.