County, school system consolidation could cut costs

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Wake County commissioners are pitching the consolidation of some services with the Wake County school system to save money.

Commissioners approved a resolution Monday to allow county staff to handle new site acquisitions and the legal representation in worker’s compensation claims. The proposal will need formal approval from both the commissioners and the school board before it could become official.

Site acquisition is part of the school system’s Facilities Design and Construction Department, a mirror of the county department with the same name. The school’s FDC also handles several other related real estate responsibilities, which would not be moved over to the county.

In the case of worker’s compensation claims, the county would only handle locally funded employees, said Scott Warren, Wake County attorney. He said the merger concept came up during an earlier joint session of the two boards and that school board members were in favor of the idea.

The resolution also directs school and county staff to examine the possibility for other such consolidations, such as in risk management, “to reduce administrative and professional costs and save local tax dollars.”

“There’s a lot of duplication going on,” he said. “I don’t think it’s ever been discussed as much as it should have. Now is a good time to discuss it, with dollars as tight as they are.”

The proposal does specifically mention layoffs, and the school’s Facilities Design and Construction Department would continue to handle its other real estate duties.

Commissioners Stan Norwalk and Betty Lou Ward questioned whether school board members had formally approved the concept. Norwalk said he spoke with two who were “astonished” to hear the idea.

Commission Chair Paul Coble said it’s just an offer; the school board can consider it or not.

“This is just the opening kickoff in what will be negotiated,” he said. “It makes sense and it saves money, time and effort. We stand ready to work with them.”

Warren said some other counties operate in this way, but he could not say which ones or how many.

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