ACSD busing expenses to skyrocket next year

MIDDLEBURY — Addison Central School District officials will need to do some creative accounting to mitigate the financial impacts of a new, three-year busing contract that will result in a 41.5-percent hike (approximately $400,000) in transportation costs next school year compared to the current pact that expires on June 30.
In years two and three of the contract, the rate will increase by 2.5 percent over the previous year. So in FY2019-2020 the contracted amount will increase to $1,139,369, and in FY2020-2021, the amount will increase to $1,167,853.
“Our first response to getting that news was shock,” ACSD Superintendent Peter Burrows said of the contract, submitted by Student Transportation of America/Bet-Cha Transit. “We’ve never seen an increase of this magnitude before, and no one had seen this coming. It’s taken awhile just to come to terms with the increase.”
One of the reasons for the dramatic increase stems from a very ACSD-friendly escalator clause built into the previous contract, negotiated with Bet-Cha in 2009. That contract tied annual increases to the Consumer Price Index, according to Burrows. That CPI-linked clause expires with the current contract.
“There had been no significant increases over the course of our fairly lengthy term with Bet-Cha,” Burrows said.
Bet-Cha was the lone bidder for ACSD’s new transportation contract. Bet-Cha is the most dominant school busing company in this part of the state, holding contracts with more than 70 school districts and organizations.
Terms of the pact call for Bet-Cha to provide 20 “regular route” buses and two, 42-passenger vehicles able to accommodate wheel chairs. The ACSD includes nine schools in the communities of Bridport, Cornwall, Middlebury, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham and Weybridge.
In addition to the conventional routes to ACSD-member elementary, middle and high schools, Bet-Cha provides a bus that shuttles tuitioned children from the Granville area to classes at Ripton Elementary. The current daily transportation rate for the Ripton/Granville bus run and special education vans is $236.21 per day. In FY2018-2019, the rate under the new contracts will rise to $315.79 per day, a 33.7-percent increase over FY2017-2018. Over the next two fiscal years, there will be a 2.5-percent increase over the previous year.
The ACSD’s current cost for extra-curricular activities/athletics transportation and field trips is $2.49 per mile, plus $21.73 per hour for the driver. Next School year, the rates will change to $2.25 per mile, plus $25.95 per hour for the driver.
Bet-Cha officials are citing multiple reasons for the big increases:
•  As stated earlier, the end to the annual increases tied to the CPI.
•  The ACSD has requested cameras and seatbelts be installed in all vehicles.
•  Older drivers are aging out are being replaced by new hires starting at a higher rate.
•  The rising cost of fuel, insurance, vehicle maintenance and personnel.
“We will continue to work with STA-Bet-Cha to explore cost-savings measures,” Burrows said.
One of those measures could be to spread the increase over a greater number of years, he said. This would reduce the amount of increase the ACSD would have to absorb next school year.
Burrows stressed there are no plans to ask district voters for a supplemental transportation budget request to cover the increase.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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