Telecommunications costs, including phones, voice over internet protocol (VOIP), and other technical needs, are part of your overall district budget.

Telecom is also an area where costs can be controlled and possibly reduced. While telecom costs may not be high on your list of priorities, they impact available funding for other more critical activities. As budgets continue to tighten and funding sources are increasingly limited, finding ways to fill the gaps is essential.

Telecom is a complex subject, and it might be difficult for you to quickly determine if you have the right services and are paying competitive market rates. Are you getting value for your money? Variables include your carriers, what systems you are using, and how you use your systems.  

Many districts are still using technologies that were procured and implemented years ago. Advances in technology have not only made traditional services obsolete but, in many cases, offer users substantially lower-cost alternatives. Some of these alternatives can also perform multiple functions that could exclusively be provided by standalone systems in the past.

Another component associated with the cost is the administrative overhead related to maintaining the telecom environment. Administrative overhead may include problem management, coordinating reconfigurations, tracking service levels, and paying invoices.

The first step in determining whether you are spending too much is to confirm that you have an accurate understanding of what makes up telecom in your environment. Telecom typically includes but is not limited to; telephone systems and services, facsimile equipment and lines, data equipment, wireless services, conference calling and video services, voice mail services, paging services, specialized call, alert, and alarm services. Developing an all-encompassing cost base, including internal and external support costs, may be a real eye-opener. Once you understand what makes up your telecom environment, it will be possible to identify the appropriate services and support level. Telecom is not one size fits all. Identifying your differentiators will go a long way in determining what you need and other alternatives to help reduce costs while maintaining the optimum service levels

As a general rule, most organizations spend at least 5%, and perhaps as much as 40%, more than necessary for telecom services. While relative to the amount you spend on telecom, a quick analysis could help you identify if an opportunity to reduce your telecom costs exists. A savings of even a few hundred or more dollars per month can go a long way to help fill budget gaps.

Fortune Consulting To help districts and member charter schools save money on telecommunications costs, the New Jersey School Boards Association offers telecommunications and IT audits through its partner, Fortune Consulting. To learn more, visit the website.

NJSBA’s Cooperative Pricing System Fortune Consulting is part of NJSBA TEC, NJSBA’s cooperative pricing system. This cooperative system eliminates the need for districts to undergo the competitive bidding process on a wide range of technology services and products.

The program, supported by the New Jersey Department of Education, enables school districts and member charter schools to purchase deeply discounted school technology and access free and low-cost resources.

Districts that are members of the Alliance for Competitive Energy Services (ACES), the most extensive energy aggregation program in the state, are already members of the cooperative pricing system. To begin purchasing from the cooperative pricing system, use the procurement number #E-8801-ACES-CPS. Districts that are not ACES members must pass a resolution to join the NJSBA Cooperative Pricing System. To learn more or check to see if your district belongs to the NJSBA CPS, visit the website.

George Giardelli is the CEO of Fortune Consulting.