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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9 Comments

  1. John Austin says:

    Mr. Price, you’re correct that the benefits paid to the Transportation workers are a significant percentage of their salaries. This is usually the case for the lower paid employees in an organization that makes benefits available to everyone, from CEO to janitor. One remedy, of course, is to triple the salaries of the Transportation workers so that their benefits are the same percentage of salaries as the teachers, about 30%. Sounds good to me !
    (P.S., I’m a bus driver, and I don’t hide behind some silly tag like “daFACTS”.)

  2. Keith Knauss says:

    Some comments:
    On the problem of “restated” numbers from Paul Price: The state subsidy for PSERS and FICA under the Corbet budget plan is different than the House passed budget plan. The Board won’t know the real numbers until both chambers agree on a budget and it’s signed by Corbett. Mr. Cochran gave us both sets of numbers as is prudent.
    On the proportion of district that already outsource in the county from daFacts: A majority of Chester County districts use private contractors. A majority of Delaware County districts provide in-house transportation. The thorough analysis now in progress will help us decide what is best for our District.
    On the “numbers dilemma” from Shellady: The numbers are fairly solid except for projecting what the state legislators will do with the subsidy in the future. A review by an accountant won’t help with that problem. The Board still awaits details of the $200K to $225K savings from the in-house transportation department. After all the numbers are in, the Board has the unenviable task of weighing the intangibles against a possible cost savings.
    On the issue of “profit margin” by Kate: The private contractors do have to make a profit. If the in-house labor costs were comparable to the private contractor’s labor costs then the in-house option would indeed be less expensive. My personal analysis reveals that UCF’s health care plan is more costly making in-house labor more expensive and, thus, counteracting the profit advantage.
    On the issue of “salaries and funding” from UCF Community: The message was inarticulate. Are you arguing for higher salaries or lower salaries? What “progress” do you envision?

  3. steve says:

    John and Kate…hear, hear!!!!

  4. UCFSD community member says:

    Now that the busing issue is out in the open, will someone please give me a good idea what on earth is going on with support personnel? They were offered a 2% raise for this current year with a major increase in medical benefits to a net loss. Next year is even more laughable with a 1% raise and increase of 10% for medical expenses. These are the lowest paid folks in the district. Soon as I guess Paul Price would have it, they will be paying to work there! What the heck??? Come on public demand to know where the district is spending $$$$$. There is something fishy going on here with salaries and funding. Time for a thorough review for more public accountability.
    So glad we will have some new voices of reason to vote for in the fall! Time to clean out some of those blocking progress. UCF looks like the laughing stock of the county. Where on Earth will you find someone who wants to be the superintendent of this place?

  5. Kate says:

    Stands to reason that a service can be done more cheaply by an organization which only needs to cover actual costs than by one which needs to add a profit margin on top of those costs. And Paul, your jihad to drag everyone down to a lower standard of living by railing against the benefits public employees have worked their entire lives for is loathsome.

  6. John says:

    I am more than concerned that a sitting board member, Paul Price, would respond to an article in such a disturbing disregard for spellcheck and mechanics. Not appropriate when you represent a premier school district. I also believe that Paul Price has as much disregard for the real facts from the literature he tries to distribute at board meetings. As for daFacts, that individual doesn’t even deserve a response.

  7. Shelllady says:

    I have a suggestion to this numbers dilemma. If the numbers are so different and neither side agrees with the others why not have an independent accountant run the numbers and see what that shows. I believe that just because everyone else does something like outsourcing it doesn’t mean that it is the right thing to do. For lack of a better example if your friend bought a size 8 pair of shoes and you just had to do the same but you take a size 9 are you going to buy the shoes despite the fact that they will not fit just for the sake of doing the same thing???? Keeping up with the Jones does not always work.

  8. daFACTS says:

    WOW – This doesn’t seem right… How come almost EVERY other district in the area has outsourced they transportation?? To pay more?? I don’t think so!!

    If the district does NOT save 200 to 225k per year as “promised” , someone MUST be FIRED!!!!

  9. Paul Price says:

    The potential savings figure has already been restated to much higher levels than announced at the Board Meeting.

    Boc Cochran says UCFSD’s FICA reimbusrsement will,indeed, be hundreds of thousands less than what he projected only hours earlier.

    When all is said and done the PSERS reimbusrsement will likely be redcued or eliminitade also.

    The majority of the Board care to ignor the coming doom associated with PSERS reching 27.75% of payroll .

    Amazingly, the total salaray for all transportation workers was listed as $8,646,773 and their total benefit costs projected at $8,239,291. There is not a decent ly run business in America that pays benfefits about equal to salaries, This is fiscal insanity at its worst.

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