Transportation sharing eyed for added savings
Morris school districts already share special ed transportation
The Morris Community Shared Services Committee discussed the possibility of sharing regular education transportation in order for the four public school districts in Morris to save money.
Since the 2002-2003 school year, the four districts — Morris Elementary School District 54, Saratoga School District 60C, Nettle Creek School District 24C and Morris Community High School District 101 — have been sharing special education transportation.
This past school year, the districts spent $640,000 on special education transportation and saved about $600,000 compared to what would have been spent had they contracted independently, Saratoga District Superintendent Kathy Perry said.
The members of the MCSSC are now looking into the same sort of savings for regular education transportation.
"I estimate $350,000 to $400,000 savings each year," Perry told the committee Wednesday.
The agreement would work the same as the special education transportation agreement does currently. Most likely, the districts would enter into a five-year contract as they do with special education.
Perry highlighted cost savings and local control as benefits of the potential agreement.
Many things would need to be sorted out, however.
For example, routes and drivers would need to be planned, start and end times for each school may need to be altered to accommodate one another, and personnel may need to be hired.
The committee discussed hiring a full-time dispatcher and a part-time mechanic.
Perry said it would also be an adjustment for parents because students in kindergarten through high school would be on the bus together.
When the area superintendents met to discuss the potential agreement, they also discussed a location to house the 40-some buses they may need. Perry said they discussed housing the operation at Saratoga for several reasons.
The Saratoga District has a four-year old transportation building, which includes its own office for operation.
"It's very, very nice," Perry told the committee about the building.
The Saratoga community also has experience with buses and coordinating transportation already.
"There is a potential possibility that the state legislature is going to change the law, no longer requiring districts to provide buses for their students," Dist. 54 board member Lou Klusak pointed out.
Dist. 54 Superintendent Teri Shaw said Klusak had a good point and that would need to be brought up to whichever bus company the districts chose to work with.
"What happens if we lease 40 buses and all of a sudden we don't have to bus kids anymore ... Can we send them back?" she asked.
Perry believes a lease can be ended early, but most likely not without a fee.
At the September committee meeting, Perry will present the members with a more detailed financial analysis for sharing regular transportation education. Then, the committee members will be asked to make a recommendation to their full boards of education so a vote can be made in October or November.