COSTA MESA — In her first school board meeting, Trustee Katrina Foley pulled two contract extensions for discussion from the consent agenda, saying she had a problem with requested increases.
The rest of the school board on Tuesday voted against her, 6 to 1, to approve a year extension on the contracts with a fencing company and emergency bus transportation company.
A-1 Fence Co., based in Anaheim, and the Cincinnati company Student First Inc. have been operating on a standby basis under a five-year contract, with the option to renew at the end of each year. This fiscal year is the fifth.
Foley, the outgoing Costa Mesa city councilwoman, said she wasn’t against paying for the services so much as she was against the increases, which come to $2,000 over the next 12 months.
While it may not seem like a lot in the greater scheme of school district finances, Foley said, such increases can add up. At a time when teachers are paying out of their own pockets for supplies, and with some families struggling financially, the district ought to try to save as well, she said.
Paul Reed, the district’s chief business official, agreed with Foley about saving. But the increase in the contracts were negotiated several years ago and were set to take effect upon an extension, he said.
“Both firms had initially requested larger increases,” Reed later wrote in an e-mail. “Given the values of what we have spent with the two vendors over the last year, the increases for both firms combined represented $2,000 over the next 12 months.”
School board President Walt Davenport said Foley’s efforts, while good intentioned, could have cost the district if it were forced to put out the contracts for competitive bids again.
Davenport said he felt it was better to extend the contracts with the increases rather than run the risk of possibly paying more for such services.
Between 2009 and 2010, the district has spent $77,223 on new fences and $136,000 in transporting students to special events, many of them sports-related, when the regular buses aren’t available to perform the duties, for whatever reason, according to district officials.
At Tuesday meeting, many residents showed up to show support for Foley, an attorney who served on the City Council for six years before her election to the school board. She campaigned on a platform that called for more transparency in the day-to-day operations of the district and school board.
Davenport welcomed her scrutiny.
“She’s looking very closely to issues like the contracts,” he said. “She’s concerned about the increases, which were part of the contractual agreement. … We have a lot of faith in our business services department. We thought the small increases in these contracts were more competitive than going back out to bid. If we walked away, the new price would have been higher.”