The city of Waco is considering replacing its janitorial staff with private contractors in an effort to save $294,000 a year.

City staff and three council members discussed privatizing the service at a budget and audit committee meeting Tuesday, three days before City Manager Dale Fisseler releases his preliminary budget for 2016-17.

If the council agrees, the city would bid out the janitorial services now performed by 22 full-time and three part-time employees, reducing janitorial costs from $950,000 to an estimated $656,000 a year. Current employees earn between $9.94 and $14.10 per hour, plus benefits for full-time workers.

City general services director Kelly Holecek told the council committee that a contractor could do the work with fewer employees and could eliminate the missed cleanings that occur when staff are sick.

Fisseler said the city already relies on contractors to clean the police headquarters at the Hillcrest Tower, and that arrangement has worked well.

Councilman Jim Holmes said outsourcing the service “makes sense.”

“With this savings, it’s almost a no-brainer,” Holmes said.

The process of bidding and transitioning to a private contractor could take a few months, and the new arrangement could be in place by late January, Holecek said.

She said current employees would have 90 days notice and would be encouraged to apply with either the contractor or with the city for other jobs.

In an interview, Fisseler said he didn’t know what a private janitorial company would pay its employees, but he said there could be advancement opportunities at whatever company is chosen.

“This kind of contract makes sense for the kind of work that’s going on,” he said. “It will be more efficient, and the savings are pretty significant.”

Fisseler plans to present a balanced budget of $292.3 million, with no increase in property tax rates. But tax revenue will increase with 5.6 percent growth in property tax base and an increase of at least 5 percent in sales tax proceeds.

The budget includes $5 million to continue last year’s efforts to rebuild streets, plus a 2.75 percent across-the-board pay raise.

The budget would increase funding to outside agencies by $1 million, to a total of $4.7 million. That includes increased funding to the Waco-McLennan County Economic Development Corp., the Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, Greater Waco Sports Commission, Rosemound Cemetery Association and the Family Health Center.

The $1 million increase also includes $380,000 in funding for arts agencies as part of the effort to build a cultural district in downtown Waco.

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