Unionville board appears likely to reject bus outsourcing

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Four of five bids higher than current costs, administrators say more savings can come from keeping bus program in-house.

By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTimes.com

It looks like district-operated school buses will continue to run from the Doe Run Road depot for the foreseeable future.

EAST MARLBOROUGH — When it comes to outsourcing the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District’s bus operation, it looks like it’s all over but the shouting.

And while there was a bit of shouting during Monday night’s Board of Education meeting — most of it was from relieved members of the district’s transportation department who learned that four of five bids to take over the district’s busing operation would have increased costs to the district, while a fifth would have only saved about $143,600 a year — and district administrators say they’ve found ways to save between $200,000 and $225,000 per year in the in-house operation.

As a result, it is now highly unlikely the board will move to contract out any of the district’s busing, with a vote expected to formalize that decision in the coming weeks — although a number of board members said they wanted to review the numbers, both those in the bids, as well as the savings projected by Robert Cochran, the district’s Director of Business and Operations and Sharon Allen-Spann, the Director of Pupil and Staff Services before making a final decision.

Although there were a handful of questions — board Vice President Frank Murphy asked how feasible the proposed in-house savings were, with Cochran responding “rock solid” — there seemed to be some sentiment to speed up the final decision making process in order to end nine months of uncertainty for the transportation department’s 84 employees. The bids expire on June 20, so the board must make a formal decision before then.

“Why are we waiting?” Murphy asked.

While it seems a clear majority of the board will opt to keep the busing operation in-house, board member Paul Price continued to argue for moving the operation outside, noting that the savings could be used to fund programs being cut and expressing worries that some state funding that is currently being threatened, if not this year, could be lost in coming years. He also suggested that it will be harder to get bids in the future — if a future board decides it needs to make a change — if all of these bids are rejected.

He also suggested that the savings projections of keeping the program in-house were “pie in the sky.”

That drew an immediate rebuke from Murphy.

“Don’t insult district employees,” Murphy said. “I believe them. I don’t think we need to get some assurance in blood.”

The district expects to announce a date in the coming days when the board will meet to finalize their decision on the issue.

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