Letter: Price argues full cost of keeping busing in-house not looked at fairly

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To the Editor,
The UCFSD debate about potential outsourcing at last Monday’s Board Meeting may need some clarification. The low bid we received (from First Student) was shown as offering 5-year savings of $718,203 over keeping things in-house as we are structured right now. First Student is also prepared to purchase our bus fleet for the sum of $1,717,553. The net 5-year difference was $2,435,756.

If that was the full extent of the savings it would represent a substantial sum for the taxpayers of our District. The potential savings could end up being even larger. The numbers above reflect the assumption that the State of Pennsylvania will continue to reimburse the UCFSD 50% of both its FICA costs and its PSERS (employee retirement) contributions as has been the custom in the past.

Gov. Corbett’s new budget has proposed cutting the FICA reimbursement and there is certainly a risk of ‘rich’ school districts like UCF seeing future cuts or elimination of their PSERS costs as well. The cost savings in the numbers presented at the Board meeting reflected net ‘revenue’ of $1,341,641 to the UCFSD from that source. If we conservatively excluded that amount as questionable for the future, the projected savings by accepting First Student’s bid would expand to $2,059,871 over the first five years plus the one-time $1,717,553 received upon sale of the bus fleet.

That would bring the first five-year total savings to $3,777,424.  It is impossible to know what Harrisburg will do but we are certainly aware that the state’s finances are already strained and they’re likely to be getting worse. The actual 5-year savings number is bound to come in somewhere between the $2,435,536 and $3,777,424 extremes. Either way it’s no small number to be left on the table when we’re hard at work deciding what programs to cut and which professional and support staff need to be let go.
UCFSD’s business manager Robert Cochran sent this e-mail to Board members the day after our public meeting…

He is acutely aware of the possibility that we will not see full reimbursement as projected during the May Board meeting.

The Board was told that the Transportation department staff had meet with the administration last weekend and identified possible give backs or cost saving measures that could potentially save $200,000 – $220,000 per year. I have seen no details of anything to substantiate that, which certainly makes me wonder what these efficiencies or sacrifices might be.

Negotiators teach something with the cute title “The Call-Girl Principle”. In the book Secrets of Power Negotiation it reads like this…

While I hope that the Transportation workers were sincere in their promises I understand the reality of that Call Girl Principle.

Once we have turned down the bids for outsourcing their incentive to cut their own compensation may diminish dramatically. This is human nature. Unless we have firm  written agreements in place to achieve the promised $200,000 – $220,000 in annual savings before we vote on outsourcing I doubt we’ll ever see the bulk of what was counted on during the decision making process.

Monday’s Board meeting presented these savings as a fait accompli that would more than neutralize the actual annual savings we can lock in by accepting First Student’s bid. One is real however, while the other is ethereal at this stage.

One last topic needs to be addressed. UCFSD has been paying gold-plated benefits to even many part-time workers. In some cases the value of the benefit package exceeds 100% of their yearly salaries. Here are the five-year numbers as presented by Mr. Cochran.

 

UCFSD’s total 5-year benefit costs are expected to equal > 95.28% of the cumulative salary payments. I can’t image many businesses in America have similar ratios. This already ridiculous number is set to get even worse as the PSER rates are scheduled to skyrocket from under 6% to 27.75% over the next decade. Private contractors will not suffer one bit from these scheduled increases. Property taxpayers will be feeling the crunch in a huge way.

Former UCFSD Board member Kathy Brown said recently that a few of the current school directors were acting like ‘wanna-be CFO’s’. That’s exactly the type of Board behavior we need to exhibit when evaluating potential multi-year contracts with enormous financial implications for the District.

Dr. Paul Price,

Member, Unionville-Chadds Ford

Board of Education

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4 Comments

  1. John Austin says:

    Mr. Price,

    In at least one respect, I’ll miss your presence next year on the UCFSD Board; you provide such easy fodder, much as Donald Trump did before his exit from the presidential scene. With both of you gone, I can only hope that Sarah Palin enters the race. I guess I can convince myself that you are well-intended, but you have a strange way of annoying and antagonizing to make your points.

    Anyway, I won’t touch your “Call Girl” analogy, that’s already been addressed, but what is your source of animosity towards bus drivers? Have you ever, in fact, used the Transportation service for your children? Did you have a bad experience?

    Your lack of trust in our commitment to reduce costs to make us competitive with the low bidder is disheartening. Why do you “doubt we’ll ever see the bulk of ” proposed reductions? Why do you think we’ll back out after the bids expire? In fact, Bob Cochran met with the drivers this afternoon to show us the cumulative listing of the suggestions we’ve made over the past week, and this list is to be given to the Board to do with as it sees fit.. You’ve “seen no details” of our counter offer because the bids were just made public last week. Patience is a virtue! So, our fate is now in your hands, or will be soon.

    Regarding the “gold-plated benefits to…part time workers”, yes, you are correct, we all work less than 40-hours per week, but the gold-plated package is the same offered by the district to all employees, including the 85 “part-time” para-professionals. Is it a gold-plated package to the teachers, to the administrators? Or is it only because we are lowly bus drivers who don’t deserve such benefits? Don’t you think the drivers need health insurance for themselves and their families? Are we any less deserving as human beings than the higher paid employees? You have a very elitist and snobish attitude. Our benefits approach 100% of our salaries BECAUSE we are among the lowest paid employees. The same package for the teachers is about 30% because of their higher salary.

    Regarding PSER’s, this is a problem not of our making. The looming payment increases for the highly-paid teachers and administrators will be much more burdensome to the district than for us low-paid bus drivers. Outsourcing the drivers to avoid our portion of the PSER’s commitment saves, admittedly, a little more than a drop-in-the-bucket, possibly a pint. You want to save more? Contact your state congressmen to make PSER’s membership voluntary for school district employees. I, for one, would opt out if so allowed by state law.

  2. Del Bittle says:

    In your comments to the UT, you mention “something with the cute title, The Call-Girl Principle” to degrade our bus drivers, How dare you. I perceive Dr. Price that YOUR service to the UCFSB is diminished and has no value. I suggest your service end at the June meeting and not at the end of this year as you choose. Your arrogant comments not only on this forum but at the Board meetings do not set well me, a tax payer and a Unionville alumni. I have lived in this district my entire 63 years and have seen many School Board members come and go….it is your time to go.

  3. Ray Farrell says:

    Dr. Price

    I appreciate the information and your straight talk on the issues. However it is clear that you don’t have a filter when speaking or writing.

    Please don’t ever refer to the people who drive and protect our children to- and-from school as hookers. It is very disrespectful and I wish you could have used a different, more appropriate analogy.

    I understand the point you are trying to make but you loose the argument with your poor choice of words.

    Ray Farrell
    Pocopson Twp.

    • Paul Price says:

      I did not imply that any UCFSD employee is a ‘hooker’.

      The ‘Call Girl Principle’ relates to the dimished perceived value of a service that occurs AFTER that service has been performed.

      Paul

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