Today's Herald quotes Broward school officials who say that in this year's budget talks, "everything is on the table." That might mean fewer high school sporting events or no more bus rides to magnet schools. Or even cutting one class out of the students' daily schedule. Desperate measures for desperate times, right?
Right. So it will be fascinating to see whether in this climate of allegedly ruthless cost-cutting, Broward School Board members finally take a hard look at the district's trash bill.
The backstory's a bit complicated, but back in the 1980s, the majority of Broward cities banded together to cut a rotten deal with the two big trash haulers -- Waste Management and Republic Services -- that effectively guaranteed the cities would overpay for trash pickup for the next three decades. The few Broward cities that opted out of the deal got the same service at a fraction of the price.
The Broward School District is a legal entity separate from the cities in which the schools are located. As such, the district is not legally obligated (like every other resident and business in that city) to pay the high rate for trash pickup. It can pay the low rate. According to experts in the trash hauling industry, for a client as big as the Broward schools, the difference would be at least a few million dollars per year -- but probably much more.
Yet for some reason, the district does pay the high rate. It's effectively giving away millions every year. I've placed calls to school officials to ask why that is, and I'll let you know what they tell me when and if they call back. My admittedly cynical guess: Waste haulers are famously generous when it comes to campaign contributions, and they've lined the pockets of the elected school officials.
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But who knows? Maybe the board will surprise me. At the very least, it will be an interesting experiment to find out whether educational resources are deemed to be expendable when the good graces of the trash hauling lobbyists are not.