Assembly Approves Bill To Enable School Districts To Use County-Wide Purchasing Systems

TRENTON – The Assembly approved a bill Monday to allow five counties to establish a county-wide purchasing system to provide custodial or food services, or both, to school districts within the county as part of a pilot program. These counties would include Middlesex, Camden, Gloucester, Union and Passaic. These contracts would be awarded to contractors using the competitive contracting process.

If a county establishes a county-wide purchasing system and a school district in the county is currently using a private contractor for the service, the district will be required to participate in the county-wide contract.

“County-wide systems could level the playing field, so that large vendors would no longer have significant advantages over small school districts,” said Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “This should result in savings for the taxpayers, and that’s something we should always encourage.”

Under the bill, a district that is using its own employees to provide custodial or food services will be required to participate in a county-wide contract if it determines to privatize the service.

Prior to participating in the county-wide contract, however, the district will be required to meet certain criteria, including holding a public hearing on the proposal to participate, providing a period during which the public will have the opportunity to submit comments on the proposal and providing written responses to the comments.

A district in these circumstances will not be permitted to participate in the county-wide contract during the term of an existing collective bargaining agreement with employees who will be affected by the participation in the county-wide contract, and after the term of the agreement, the district may participate only after:

  • Providing written notice to the majority representative of employees in each collective bargaining unit affected by participation in the county-wide contract and to the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission; and
  • Offering the majority representative the opportunity to consult with the district to discuss the decision to participate in the county-wide contract and the opportunity to engage in negotiations over the impact of participation.

Each employee replaced or displaced as a result of the district’s participation in the county-wide contract would retain all previously acquired seniority and would have recall rights whenever the district’s participation in the county-wide contract terminates.
Any administrator whose position is eliminated due to a countywide purchasing system will receive terminal leave pay pursuant to the “Uniform Shared Services and Consolidation Act.”

The bill would also provide protection for food or custodial services employees employed on school district premises during a transition to employment by a successor contractor, which is defined in the bill as a contractor that has been awarded a food or custodial services contract. Under the provisions of the bill, a successor contractor must offer employment during a 90-day transition employment period to all service employees providing food or custodial services employed by the predecessor employer, whether that predecessor employer is a school district or another contractor providing food or custodial services for the school district.
The successor contractor is prohibited from discharging, without just cause, a retained employee during that transition period, and must perform a written performance evaluation for each retained employee at the end of the transition period.

Employees whose performance was satisfactory, must be offered continued employment by the successor contractor. This provision would apply in the case of participation in a county-wide contract for food or custodial services, in the case of a district privatizing these services, or in the case of a change from one private contractor to another private contractor for these services.

The bill was approved 50-27-1 by the Assembly and now awaits further consideration by the Senate.

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