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Letter: Vote ‘No’ on Getting Back Into the Transportation Business

Five years ago our board of education asked if we wanted to continue with our costly district run transportation system, or if we wanted them to “outsource” busing which would save us over $1 million a year. We voted to outsource. We have, in fact, saved over $1 million each year since.

Now we are forced to revisit the issue, due to a lawsuit initiated by MESPA.

We are being asked if we want the district to spend $6.270 million to buy a fleet of buses and get back into the transportation business, which will again be operated by MESPA union members who are subject to “mandatory collective bargaining” to determine cost of service. We must vote ‘No’ to this proposition and reiterate our conviction that the school district should manage education and leave the maintenance and management of transportation to private industry.

Without listing the myriad of problems and costs associated with maintaining and managing our own transportation system, we need only compare the statistics from the last year we were in the business, to those of the current year to see that we made the right decision. We pay less now than we did then for more service and better buses. In the 2004-05 school year, the total operating cost to the district was $4,415,286. We had 39 buses running 68 a.m./p.m. routes. The buses had an average age of 12 years, and they did not have air-conditioning or cameras. This year, for less money than we spent in 2004-05, Huntington Coach ran 95 routes utilizing 57 vehicles. The buses have an average age of three years and are all equipped with air-conditioning and cameras.

Further, if the community votes to buy back a fleet of buses, the district will have to hire additional MESPA union members and support 65 people to operate transportation. Once reinstated, we will be stuck with this flawed system in perpetuity. It is highly unlikely that MESPA will ever agree to a buy-out, or that we will be able to afford their demands if they did agree. We have the opportunity, now, to break free from the bondage of maintaining an aging bus fleet and negotiating with MESPA for services in perpetuity. Our district will never be able to compete with private industry’s ability to provide a youthful fleet with good service in the most cost effective manner possible. Our children are getting to school safely and on time, for $1 million less per year. Let’s do ourselves, and future taxpayers a favor and vote ‘No’.

Heidi McNamara