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School Bus Outsourcing Delayed; User Fees Discussed

Both committees met to discuss the transportation issues Tuesday night.

 

, Deputy Superintendent of Finance and Operations for Concord Public Schools John Flaherty and Superintendent of Schools Diana Rigby were tasked with answering many of the questions surrounding the bus transportation issue Tuesday night. In the end, a decision was made to delay the idea of outsourcing.

Speaking to the school committees of and the Concord-Carlisle Regional School District, Flaherty and Rigby went into detail on several issues that have the community buzzing, including the possibility of user fees, leasing a bus repair facility and utilizing a private contractor for bus services.

“We need to make a decision now. Outsourcing is a viable option,” said Rigby, who shared that she had spoken with other superintendents who outsource bus service and found a favorable consensus.

Rigby said that she has also spoken with taxpayers and they are behind the school building project, but they are leery of continuously increasing the tax burden to achieve such projects. Rigby advocated for ways to save money while also upholding a certain level of quality.

“Our core services are teaching and learning,” she said. “I encourage us to look at different ways to do business and make sure that things don’t encroach on those core services.” 

Dozens of residents from both communities were in attendance for Tuesday’s meeting and a few stood by the belief that there must be a way other than outsourcing. Lisa Bergman, in particular, shared that she garnered over 430 signatures for a petition to stop outsourcing.

“Don’t rush into an ill-conceived outsourcing program,” she read to the committees. “None of us want to spend extra money, but we didn’t know that we were trading transportation when we were looking at building a new high school.”

Another resident, Jennifer Longmyer, recalled a time when her son was late arriving home one day. She said she called her son’s bus driver and the driver picked up right away, explaining that there had been a delay in getting the buses out of the school that afternoon. She knew immediately, she said, that her son was alright.

“The bus driver is the first person a student sees in the morning and the last person they see in the afternoon. That relationship is important,” Longmyer said, stressing that a third-party service would not provide that level of familiarity.

Peter Fischelis, chair of the Concord-Carlisle School Committee, said that there was an “immediate issue with the budget that we have to solve” and expressed his desire to go back to the Financial Committee to see if there are other financial options that can be looked at.

Ultimately, the two committees voted to delay any bus outsourcing plans for a year. They also agreed that while the Transportation Department will remain in tact, they will have to find a facility that can handle bus repair work for their current fleet of buses as new high school construction moves into their current physical territory.

The meeting also addressed the issue of charging bus user fees as a means to recoup money, fees that could be between $300 and $400 per student if committee members chose to go that route, according to Flaherty. CC Regional School District member Chad Koski suggested that a fee might discourage parents from utilizing a bus service anyway, because they would decide it’s cheaper to drive their kids to school.

Concord Public Schools member Jerry Wedge said that he finds user fees “inherently unfair” because they put much of the cost burden on the shoulders of a small minority. Concord School Committee Vice-Chair Pamela Gannon, meanwhile, related her opposition to fees since they “charge our youngest families,” essentially punishing them.

Louis Salemy of the Carlisle School system did not specifically offer a stance on user fees, but did say that whatever decisions are made, the bus system they use has to be safe, cost effective and deliver kids on time. He said that school employee layoffs should be the last thing to take place, acknowledging that this was a difficult process for all involved.

“You have to understand that the school administration is always looking out for the best interest of the students, while also operating under a certain budget,” he said.


Was the right decision made? Do you favor the outsourcing option? Tell us in the comment section below.

nancy conway February 16, 2012 at 03:13 AM
Why not charge high user fees for the parking lot at CCHS and a high fee for the drop off area to encourage bus use. The buses are the environmental way to get to school.
Stefanie Cloutier February 16, 2012 at 11:39 AM
The fee to park at CCHS is already high, at $300 per car. It's not clear to me what these fees currently support, but that would be helpful to know.
Marianne Maloney February 16, 2012 at 12:01 PM
"The meeting also addressed the issue of charging bus user fees as a means to recoup money, fees that could be between $300 and $400 per student if committee members chose to go that route, according to Flaherty." In addition to our recent property tax hike-- and the next one due to hit us with the HS-- I feel this is an outrageous proposal for Concord's dual income families that have more than one school aged child and are already struggling to make ends meet. Do we really need to pay for our Superintendent's transportation? Let's review that first as every little bit helps in situations that impact the families of CPS.
David February 17, 2012 at 02:50 AM
Owning your own bus fleet helps us control cost. Outsourcing is like Cable TV. The first year, to get you to sign up, they give you free movies (3 free buses) and charge a low price. After a few years, before you know it, your paying 3 time as much, no free movies (buses), cant get anyone to answer the phone or come fix your equipment. You cant go back becouse you'll need about $2,880,000.00+ to buy new buses becouse you sold the ones we have now for about $360,000.00 (about a $10,000.00 average blue book value at auction on a $80,000 bus) plus drivers. When Prop 2 1/2 passed many towns dumped their fleets becouse they thought they were saving money. Now they cant afford to go back and they are stuck becouse of 2 1/2. Lets not be rushed into something that can't be changed. For once, lets think about something before we jump in. Kind of like putting a school on a bus yard without being told about it or coming up with a plan first.

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