S. Huntington School Busing a Question Mark

District plan to cut contractor's routes remains in dispute.

The cost of busing, central to finalizing next year's South Huntington school budget, remains an open question, just a few days before the school board is scheduled to decide on its adoption.

At Wednesday's South Huntington marathon school board workshop, Superintendent Thomas Shea reiterated a plan to cut 17 bus routes run by Huntington Coach that would save the district $448,239. Reducing the number of buses needed simultaneously would force a significant change in school arrival and departure times. It is one of the larger cuts designed to meet a state-mandated cap on the tax levy needed to fund the school district.

Brendan Clifford, vice president of operations for Huntington Coach, has disputed the district's figures on the cost of private vs. district buses.

Several days ago, Clifford had written to Shea that the plan to cut Huntington Coach routes would be a violation of his contract with the district.

Asked at the meeting Wednesday whether the district could legally cut the routes, Shea replied, "We’re waiting for a legal opinion,  on the legality of cutting routes under contract."

During the marathon session Wednesday, Shea, Clifford and Kevin E. Boyle Jr., president of the United Public Service Employees Union which represents drivers and other employees of the district, debated the true cost of buses and keeping drivers as district employees instead of shifting everything to Huntington Coach control.

Boyle insisted that any attempt to turn district drivers into private employees would ultimately be extremely expensive under the state's Taylor Law, which prohibits privatizing work done by bargaining units unless the union agrees.

Shea posted numbers that seemed to show that privately run buses are indeed cheaper that district-owned buses but also said the numbers were in dispute because of a disagreement as to exactly which costs should be included in the per-bus figure.

On Friday, Clifford repeated his statements that his company would save the district money, and said, "Huntington Coach is entering the second year of a two year contract with the district, which has saved them tens of thousands of dollars already, and will continue to save them thousands next year. That contract contains the condition that the amount of buses remains essentially the same as in 2010-2011. Yes, Huntington Coach would hold the district responsible to honor their end of the agreement."

Recommended Cuts

Teaching staff 784,861 Half-day kindergarten 1,104,305 Paraprofessionals 140,587 Clerical staff 210,500 Equipment (except IT) 17,400 Middle-school sports 120,158 Buildings and grounds 423,615 Transportation 448,239 Administration 129,500 Substitute rate 129,584 Home tutoring 100,000 To be determined 145,593 Total 3,754,342


Shea proposed a third transportation schedule:

Building (buses) Arrival Classtime Departure Whitman (44) 7:10 am 7:20 am-2 pm 2:05 pm Oakwood/Countrywood (37) 8:10 am 8:20 am-2:35 pm  2:45 pm Birchwood/Maplewood (41) 8:50 am 9 am-3:15 pm       3:25 pm Silas Wood/Stimson (38) 9:30 am 9:35 am-4:25 pm 4:30 pm

Sports, Extracurricular Cuts

Middle school sports $180,158 Intramural program added -$31,000 Bowling, golf and swimming added -$29,000 Net Reduction $120,158


The "working" budget is $146,744,492; under the cap, the budget would come in at $142,990,150, forcing the district to find $3,754,342 in cuts.

The school board will meet on Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. at Whitman High School.

joey March 31, 2012 at 08:13 PM
And it goes on and on and on. The district has been at this for 10 years. For some reason they want to go into the busing business. First asking for 5 million to expand a depot and bus fleet in a residential area; which never happened yet the money is spent on what??? The bond is fully spent after the request this year for more bond money (look at the debt service payments from the district presentation). They spent years looking at other property around town..didn't work and now we are back to square one with the bond money spent but on what? Where is the beef???? A serious look at the real numbers is needed. Instead of calling this the South Huntington Union Free SD. It should be Union Free For All. lol.
Kathy March 31, 2012 at 08:21 PM
To correct something stated in this article...Dr. Shea, Mr. Clifford and Mr. Boyle all agreed that the numbers presented by Dr. Shea to compare district transportation costs vs. outsourcing to Huntington Coach were provided by Mr. Clifford from Huntington Coach. The district has not provided any of their own numbers for anyone to dispute. Dr. Shea apparently used those numbers provided by Huntington Coach in his presentation to the community. Mrs. Occhiogrosso, Asst Supt Business and Dr. Shea stated that they essentially agree with those numbers. It wasn't until Mr. Boyle stated that the numbers were incorrect, that Dr. Shea then said there was some disagreement as to what should be included in the figure. He further explained that the district disputes whether the debt service on the bus depot and buses that the district owns, and the cost of district office personnel involved in running the bus program should be included in the total of what it costs the district to run their own buses. Well, if you want to compare apples to apples, yes, everything involved in running the buses must be included in that number, just as Huntington Coach takes all of this information into account when they decide how much they have to charge for each bus in order for them to be profitable...
Kathy March 31, 2012 at 08:27 PM
... Dr. Shea said that he didn't know the answer to what should be included, so he recommended that they hire a consultant next year to look into it. Not being able to figure this out yourself, is exactly why you shouldn't be in the transportation business. I find it very disturbing that the district is presenting a budget to us without knowing if the information is correct or not. And are proposing to breach a contract with Huntington Coach that, when questioned about, first responded that the contract ends this year. After they were corrected by Mr. Clifford that the contract ends next year, they said that they didn't know if they could legally cut 17 routes. Then when further pressed on the issue by another resident, they said they were awaiting legal advice. So which is it? Did they not know the contract had another year left on it or did they know it and ask for legal advice on cutting the routes? Either way they lied to us about it at the meeting on Wednesday. They work for us. Why are they lying about this?
Kathy March 31, 2012 at 08:36 PM
And, just so you know, the union obviously doesn't represent the best interests of the taxpayer or kids. According to the presentation by Dr. Shea, outsourcing the routes currently being run by the district (about 1/2 of total routes) to Huntington Coach would save the district over $1,000,000 per year. That's a million dollars that could be used to save some of the programs that students and parents so passionately spoke about at the meeting. But because of the Taylor Law, the district must get the agreement of the UPSEU, district drivers' union, before privatizing the transportation, even though their contract is expiring in June. The union will never give their agreement and will force the district into a court case or mediation of some sort that will result in the district making some sort of payment (bribe) to get the union to agree to let them out of an expired contract. So Mr. Boyle was basically threatening a multi-million dollar lawsuit when he mentioned those costs the other night. Shame on you Mr. Boyle. It's obvious you don't care at all about the kids.
Robert W April 01, 2012 at 01:45 AM
Looking at seethroughny on April 30th 2009 (the last year available) Dr Shea's salary was $255,000. Today that salary is $331,000! Anybody else get a $76,000 raise in 3 years? Keep telling yourself it's for the kids!
Kathy April 01, 2012 at 03:10 AM
Robert W...I'm sure that was padding for his pension...we fought that raise 2 years ago when the economy was so bad, we went and spoke at the budget work sessions and were told they had to give him raises because that was commensurate with the surrounding districts and if we didn't pay him he might go to one of those districts. I thought...good...let him try to get another job in this economy asking for more money. Disgraceful.
AT April 02, 2012 at 12:10 AM
Hum, isn't Shea an attorney? "Hire" a consultant? seems as though hiring is not fiscally possible..... Just a way to put it off another year
AT April 02, 2012 at 12:15 AM
There's one teachers salary right there.
Kathy April 02, 2012 at 04:22 AM
AT ...clearly this is just to delay, delay , delay and hope we go away and stop asking questions. I don't know if Shea is a lawyer or not, but he certainly acts like one...their whole job is to figure out how to get around the law. I guess with 4 lawyers on the board, the taxpayers have no chance.
Janet April 02, 2012 at 10:17 AM
Can someone explain why the budget has to be passed by the BOE on Wednesday? Why another week can't be taken to review the bus situation in more depth, hearing from legal resources on both sides? Thank you
JSC April 02, 2012 at 11:58 AM
Janet, there are legal timelines that must be met according to state law. Districts take the mandated voting date and backtrack from there to figure out the necessary dates for legal notices, public hearings, petition admissions, and budget approval by the board. Your district clerk could show you the specifics.
Janet April 02, 2012 at 12:27 PM
Thank you JSC...I'll check that out... Just thought that if the State can delay their adoption of the budget that maybe the school district could too.
Kathy April 02, 2012 at 02:34 PM
Janet....outsourcing of the buses has been being questioned by residents since the early 2000s so the district has had plenty of time to consider it...they just refuse to. For some reason, they want to be in the transportation business.
Phil April 24, 2012 at 05:09 PM
If you don't like that Shea got a $76,000.00 raise in 3 years, hit the Clear button on the school board. They voted for it. In fact, the information I have says that they voted for it minutes before voting to freeze raises and cut teachers. What the heck is going on. Dr. Shea is - as suggested by Kathy - upping his pension so he can retire to where his family is waiting for him in the Southwest. No wonder he's out for 'him' and not for 'our' school district. He has no personal stake in its success.
Deborah May 06, 2012 at 12:27 PM
Here is my question although a little late in the comment line, why is it that Mrs. Occhiogrosso does not know what a budget item actually costs? Isn't that why she got paid over 190,000 a year in 2011 as reported on See Through New York? She showed up at a budget meeting not knowing the budget numbers, what would an private employer say?
Debra August 25, 2012 at 06:30 PM
Also a little late on the comment--just found this site. Why Mrs. O didn't say anything baffled me too. As for the buses they have been here since the 60's if not earlier. And I believe Hunt. Coach will cost us in the long run, the co. makes lots of money.
Kathy August 25, 2012 at 06:57 PM
Debra...Do you have any evidence to back up your claim that Huntington Coach will cost more in the long run?
Ron August 25, 2012 at 07:05 PM
Ask Occhiogrosso...oh wait...she left. Ask Shea...oh wait he left. Ask Eagen...oh wait he left. Ask.....ummmmmm


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