Ann Arbor school administrator: Busing consolidation cheaper than privatizing
Hiring a private company to run the district’s busing operations would cost $7,019,214, said Robert Allen, the district’s deputy superintendent for operations. Joining with five of the county’s other traditional districts to form a consolidated busing system would cost the district $6,578,274.
Both those options are cheaper than the district’s current busing system, which costs $8,718,669, Allen said.
The savings under the WISD option could increase if more districts join the group. Currently, five of the county’s 10 traditional school districts, including Ann Arbor, have expressed strong support for the plan. Two to three more are leaning toward joining, officials said.
The board hasn’t taken any action on the plan. It could vote on making the move as early as its May 12 meeting.
Under the plan, districts would consolidate all their busing operations - from routing to maintenance - under one entity run by the WISD. Savings would come from reducing the number of bus drivers needed across the county, reducing the overhead and administration, and in some cases, reducing wages for the drivers.
Allen said under the WISD plan, drivers would have an average hourly rate of $14.70. They currently have an average hourly rate of $16.55.
Savings would also accumulate by eliminating the number of miles a bus runs without students on it as the bus travels to pick them up. In Ann Arbor’s case, 40 percent of the miles driven each year are those empty bus miles.
Ann Arbor is exploring transportation changes as part of its plan to reduce its budget for next school year by $20 million.
The district went to the current bus drivers union to negotiate an agreement to get savings, but the drivers voted down that agreement, Allen said.
If the district went with the WISD plan, many of the routes currently used would still be used in the fall, Superintendent Todd Roberts said.
Roberts said he liked the WISD option over the alternatives.
“I believe that this is both the best short-term and long-term way to sustain the high quality transportations services we currently have at a cost we can maintain.”
David Jesse covers K-12 education for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at email@example.com or at 734-623-2534.