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TO THE EDITOR: NYM school has long history of working with service co-op

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To the editor:

The bipartisan proposal presented by Governor Pawlenty that schools cut costs by combining their purchasing power to obtain goods and services is not a new idea to area school districts.

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The New York Mills Public School district has been combining purchasing power and sharing services through Lakes Country Service Cooperative and similar organizations for over 30 years. In fact, the Service Cooperatives were created by the legislature for exactly this purpose. There are nine cooperatives serving the state. The cooperatives have worked so well, that in 1996, the legislature allowed the service cooperatives to extend membership to cities, counties, governmental agencies and non-profits.

Since its inception, Lakes Country Service Cooperative has bid and negotiated purchasing contracts, from food to vehicles, with significant savings to all members. They have been the leader in providing affordable educational professional development. They have created insurance pools that have some of the lowest administrative costs in the state. They have provided special needs and curriculum consultants to districts that would otherwise not be able to provide service individually.

The cooperative purchasing program through Lakes Country Service Cooperative has grown to be a statewide program with national ties, combining the volume of all Minnesota schools under the Cooperative Purchasing Connection banner. This program taps into a 23 state school bidding organization known as the Association of Educational Purchasing Agencies. As an example, in fiscal year 2008, the statewide Service Cooperatives' saved school members hundreds of thousands of dollars on a sales volume that exceeded $17 million.

Best of all, the schools have continuous input and oversight of their cooperative through the governing board and advisory committees, so there is built-in flexibility and response to regional needs. The cooperative operates on a voluntary basis; if it didn't perform, members would not have to use their services. Lakes Country Service Cooperative has flourished under this model and continues to add services at the request of member schools.

According to Jeremy Kovash, Director of Lakes Country Service Cooperative, "The infrastructure for shared services has already been created by our schools and is performing well. We are anxious to work with the Governor and the bipartisan committee to strengthen these programs and others in Minnesota."

The New York Mills School District is a member of Lakes Country Service Coop and we take advantage of many shared services and programs that reduce the overall operating costs for our school districts. A new idea; I don't think so.

Todd Cameron

New York Mills Public School Superintendent

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