UPDATE: Yonkers education panel recommends shared services

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YONKERS Consolidate the city and school district personnel departments. Rely less on outside counsel and more on city attorneys to give the district legal advice. Hire a “chief information officer” to better manage the city’s IT operations.

Those are a few of the nearly two-dozen recommendations made by a new panel looking to lower public school costs through shared services with the city and other efficiencies.

Mayor Mike Spano’s “Education Redesign Team” unveiled its initial report identifying those and other savings measures at a City Hall news conference Tuesday. The mayor created the panel in February with the goal, he said, of freeing up more money for the cash-strapped district after years of painful cuts to staff and programs.

Tuesday, he said the panel’s recommendations would result in “millions of dollars” in savings for city schools. His office was unable to provide a more specific estimate.

The report recommends merging numerous city and district functions, including payroll, vehicle maintenance, waste disposal and snow-removal services.

It also suggests coordinating on common purchases and sharing storage facilities for things like food, furniture and records.

The city should also consider adopting a “cloud computing” system similar to the district’s, and they should both explore more cost-effective employee benefits, the reports says.

Superintendent Bernard Pierorazio praised the group Tuesday.

The panel is “making significant progress identifying duplicated services that will translate into more education dollars,” he said.

The report is the product of a month-long study, led by Deputy Mayor Susan Gerry, of city and district spending on human resources, legal counsel, information technology, purchasing, payroll, and facilities management.

Spano aides said Tuesday that there is no specific timetable for implementing the panel’s ideas — some of which could necessitate lengthy negotiations with local unions.

The report comes as city officials debate the mayor’s $937.8 million proposed budget for the 2013 fiscal year, which includes $428.9 million in city spending and $508.9 million in education funding, a $2.6 million increase from 2012.

The panel will soon be adding new members, including more teachers and a student, Spano said. It plans to spend the summer looking more extensively at ways to enact its proposals.

It will also recommend a candidate to fill a school board vacancy at the end of May.

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