Schools and government team up in SE Minn.
STILLWATER — In a sign that schools are looking for even more ways to shave expenses, Stillwater Area Schools started meeting this fall with the city of Stillwater and Washington County to find ways to share services and equipment, local leaders said.
Some of the preliminary ideas include coordinating repaving projects to get a better price on asphalt, sharing information technology specialists and using city engineers on school building projects.
"In the end, it's about saving taxpayers money," said Stillwater Mayor Ken Harycki . "It doesn't matter what pocket or what bucket it comes out of as long as it's cutting expenses."
It's not uncommon for school districts to partner with each other, but now more are reaching out to cities and counties, said Scott Croonquist, executive director of the Association of Metropolitan School Districts.
"Obviously, budgets are tight and these partnerships are growing," he said. "The first wave was really about like groups sharing services. Now it's expanding beyond that with more cross-jurisdictional partnerships."
Working together isn't completely new to the county, city and school district. The county's human services department has helped the school district with chemical- and mental-health services. Public works staffers have shared maintenance equipment.
"A lot of this has already been going on informally," said county administrator Jim Schug. "But in a time of limited resources, we're just trying to take a fresh look and find new ways to partner."
Hennepin County has already begun teaming with school districts to try to lower the high school dropout rate. For example, probation officers can get instant school information about at-risk students instead of waiting weeks for it.
Stillwater Superintendent Corey Lunn says that when he led the Montgomery-Lonsdale school district, he met with the leaders of the two cities every spring to figure out new ways to partner on services and projects.
They created a community nature center at one of the schools. The district provided the land, the city the resources. Students could use it during the school day and community members could enjoy it as well.
One of the cities also took over maintenance of one of the school pools to keep it open. And the cities and school district shared maintenance equipment on other projects.
"In this day and age, you have to do things differently," Lunn said.