Three local school districts will share bus routes beginning this fall, saving a predicted $220,000 among them.
The Scotia-Glenville, Niskayuna, and Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake school districts have agreed to collaborate in transporting students pending approval of the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake school board on August 19. If enacted, the districts will share buses for four out-of-district locations, including the BOCES Career and Technical School in Albany and St. Coleman’s in Watervliet.
Niskayuna interim Superintendent John Yagielski said the plan evolved from a personnel-sharing idea.
“Our transportation director retired at the end of last school year,” Yagielski said. “We started talking with Scotia-Glenville, and we began by talking about sharing a transportation director. It actually grew into a discussion around shared services.”
The three districts, plus the Center for Disability Services, worked together to sort out the details of the plan.
Two major pieces of legislation inspired the districts to search for cost-effective ways of working together. One, which will go into effect June 1, 2015, requires each school district to establish a Government Efficiency Plan. The other is the so-called “property tax freeze,” which rewards homeowners with rebate checks when school districts keep their tax levies below the state’s cap.
Districts will save money on fuel, bus wear-and-tear, and drivers’ salaries.
Yagielski said 71 students will be affected by the change in routes this fall.
“We are starting small, and we want to do it well,” he said.
He stressed that during the planning stages, a major focus had been ensuring student safety and comfort, especially avoiding unnecessarily long commutes.
“We don’t want to just willy-nilly increase the lengths of time,” he said.
More routes could be combined in the future. For now, the relatively small number of students affected will allow direct communication with students and their families, including personal phone calls home.
Although the planning process was complex, the newly solidified partnership between the three districts may provide an avenue for previously unworkable or unconsidered cost-saving teamwork.
“We’re going to continue to look at other ways in which we can work together to reduce costs,” Yagielski said.
Buying bus parts and fuel in greater volumes can reduce the total cost to each district, he suggested.
In addition, some districts have the facilities to do in-house repairs and bodywork on vehicles, while others do not.
If the districts collaborate, they can avoid outsourcing expensive work.
“This is a partnership, so the amount of savings really relates to the amount of participation,” Yagielski said. “The more we do this, the more savings there will be.”