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posted: 3/14/2012 6:06 PM

District 155, feeder districts look to save jointly

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School board presidents from Crystal Lake High School District 155 and its four feeder districts are going to seek approval from their respective boards to look into saving money by joining forces in the areas of purchasing, technology, transportation and maintenance, officials said.

District 155 board President Tom Wagner said he met last week with his counterparts from Fox River Grove Elementary District 3, Cary Elementary District 26, Crystal Lake Elementary District 47 and Prairie Grove Elementary District 46 to discuss expanding shared services and collaboration among the districts.

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"There is a large number of things that we could look at jointly, and I think in the end it's going to help our students achieve higher scores along with helping our taxpayers, and us helping to maintain lower tax rates," Wagner said.

For example, Districts 155 and 47 have a joint busing agreement, while the other three districts do it on their own, he said. "We buy a lot of fuel. What if we look at sharing purchasing power on fuel, instead of going out there individually to to the market?" he said.

Another idea is purchase software in bulk, he said. "There's 100 things like that we could do. The same way with our technology."

Wagner said that during the initial discussion, all the board presidents were "very eager" to move forward. There was no concrete discussion about whether the study would be conducted by administrators or an outside contractor, he said.

District 47 board President Jeff Mason said it's all about leveraging the districts' combined strength to control costs. "Purchasing, technology, transportation, maintenance. Those are all big dollar items for us," Mason said. "I think it makes sense for school districts to look at these items." Mason said he already spoke with board members individually and they are all supportive of the plan.

District 26 and 3 recently began discussing the possibility of consolidating the two districts, but the topic did not come up during last week's discussion among school board presidents, Wagner said. "I don't believe that (consolidation) is the issue at the moment. I think the issue is, 'Let's work much closer together.'"

Representatives from Districts 26 and 3 did not respond to requests for comment.

Wagner said he hopes the school boards approve the plan by the end of the month so a second meeting can take place in early April.

"We're going to sit down and look at a business plan," he said. "Our purchasing power would be huge."

The four elementary school districts number nearly 13,000 students altogether, while there are about 6,900 students in District 155.

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