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 CutsTeaching 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 CutsMiddle 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.