Let’s see if we understand this completely. A state representative from your area comes up with a plan called “Common Cents” that is geared toward trying to save money for school districts.

A consultant is hired and looks into the programs at your school and says she feels you can save between $43,000 and $87,000 by joining new purchase consortiums and entertaining more shared service agreements.

But you say, “No thanks.” Actually, it wasn’t that polite. Rather than keep an open mind and just see where there might be a savings, you totally disregard the program.

Apparently that’s the plan in Hermitage School District, where they must have so much money that it doesn’t matter if there is a possibility of more savings.

School business manager Monique Barber points out that the school already belongs to several consortiums which save money. That’s good.

And when it comes to general purchasing, Ms. Barber says the district is part of a national group that gets great prices and she can’t conceive of a new consortium doing better. She can’t conceive of doing better?

The problem is: How do you know until you look?

How do school board members not investigate every possible way to save money for the taxpayers. Or don’t the taxpayers in Hermitage care?

For example: How much could the district save by sharing a business manager with other districts? That could be a real savings.

There’s something wrong with this picture. Either the Common Cents program that was implemented through the efforts of state Rep. Mark Longietti, who represents the Shenango Valley, is a waste of time and taxpayers money that’s being spent on it, or that some school districts like Hermitage are so resistant to change that they are willing to simply ignore possible savings.

Then again, are there certain sacred cows who might lose business from the school if various purchases are headed elsewhere? For example, Ms. Barber said the district buys most of its technology equipment through a state contract that allows vendor choice. Not that it’s necessarily wrong, but there are always questions when “vendor choice” is permitted.

Apparently the only voice of reason on the entire school board came from director Laurie Ann Biblis, who pointed out: “I just think it’s common sense to look further into it and opt into it.”

What also makes common sense is not to bite the hand that feeds you. Every school district relies heavily on state funding. So when you ignore state programs that may be in your best interest — especially when they are introduced by your own state rep — how will the state view that the next time you ask for a grant?

The Common Cents program is new and may need some revamping, especially the cookie-cutter approach the state-funded consultants seem to have taken in their recommendations to our local districts, but it never hurts to explore every avenue that will save money for the taxpayers. Hermitage is not immune to the economic crunch that’s hitting this country and the taxpayers there deserve better than a school board that refuses to look into all ways to save money.

Then again, if there is a consolidation of school districts like Gov. Rendell is recommending, all this is null and void. Consolidation would be the real program called “Common Cents.”

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