WORTHINGTON SCHOOLS

BUSING Q&A WITH GEORGE SONTAG

 

 

Worthington Taxpayers have always had questions about how much it costs to bus students, in no small part due to the fact that every levy campaign always features the inevitable “elimination of high school busing” as part of cut lists.

 

I had a Q&A exchange with our transportation coordinator, George Sontag. His responses revealed a lot of information about our busing program. Over the years, many citizens have asked how much can be saved by eliminating some busing routes, how many students ride the bus and related questions. Once and for all, I wanted to get these questions answered. Did you know, for example, that almost half of our students use the buses? I didn’t! Read on for more information about the district’s transportation efforts.

 

 

QUESTION:   How many buses would be required if we eliminated all high school busing.

 

ANSWER: High School transportation requires no additional buses but does require labor. Eliminating it would not reduce the number of buses that we own or use. We also have very heavy co-curricular usage of our buses while buses are running their routes. This requires us to have as many as 10 spare buses and sub drivers on the road at the same time our buses are delivering students to their homes.

 

QUESTION: How much would be saved in people/maintenance/drivers if we eliminated all high school busing.

 

ANSWER: Transportation of high school students is a service that we offer our parents and students that is not required under Ohio law. Our high school buses run early in the morning as our first route, and the high school routes are sandwiched between our late elementary routes and our middle school routes. This time schedule makes our buses run very efficiently, allowing many buses to run four separate routes each morning and each afternoon. The Board of Education evaluated the cost savings of eliminating high school transportation during our last round of reductions. The cost savings of this was about $15,000.00 due to our efficiency.

 

After further review, I believe that we could adjust school start times for the middle schools and the elementary schools to remove the downtime that the drivers would be paid waiting for the middle school students in the afternoons. This change would result in a savings of nearly $120,000.00 after reimbursement. One problem with this change would be the need to adjust school start and end times. The high schools’ times could be very flexible; however, the other schools’ times would be based on bus route timing. 

 

QUESTION:  How many buses would be required if we cut busing to state minimums.  

 

ANSWER: We would need approximately 40 buses or half our current fleet. Such cuts would seriously cut into the service that is currently expected by our parents. This would undoubtedly affect not only transportation but education for students that could not arrange for rides or walk in inclement weather.

 

QUESTION:  How much would be saved in people/maintenance/drivers if we cut busing to state minimums.

 

ANSWER: Approximately $750,000.00 per year not including vehicle cost.

 

QUESTION:  How much do we spend on bus maintenance now? How much could be saved with newer buses requiring less maintenance.

 

ANSWER: 

Year

Cost

New Buses That Year

2002-2003

192493

4

2003-2004

211278

4

2004-2005

205704

18

2005-2006

192493

1

 

 

As you observe the history of our costs you can see the direct correlation between new vehicles and decreased repair costs. During the summer of 2004/2005 we were able inspect 18 new buses and sell 18 high mileage rusting vehicles. Although we received only one new bus during the 2005/2006 year, our costs remain much lower than in previous years. I anticipate slightly higher costs for 2006/2007 but hopefully this can be reduced by purchasing buses delivered prior to July 2007.

 

School bus chassis are warranted for approximately 5 years but the bodies for only 1 year. The buses generally begin to develop repair needs in the fourth year.

 

QUESTION:  Are there any other tangible savings that would occur from the purchase of new buses?

 

ANSWER: Used buses will generate a small amount of revenue. Better fuel mileage saves money while newer engines save our environment. Those receiving the greatest benefit from the exhaust reduction are the students that ride the buses.

 

QUESTION: What is wrong with the existing buses. They clearly got the job done last year and the year before. Are the number of breakdowns increasing? Are they too costly to maintain? Are there safety issues and if so, how do you respond to the charge that we are currently driving unsafe buses?

 

ANSWER: On average our fleet of 81 buses has over 118,000 miles and is 10 years old. We have very qualified mechanics that do an excellent job keeping our fleet safe and mechanically maintained. A school bus engine should last approximately 175,000 to 200,000 miles with good maintenance. We currently have 10 buses in excess of 200,000 miles. Unfortunately time, salt and potholes make body and structure repairs very cost prohibitive. Half of our fleet is in excess of 10 years old. Short of replacing new bodies onto old chassis (a practice that is no longer available in our state), we must patch floors and bodies almost annually on the older buses as the rust moves much like cancer.

 

Our buses undergo a thorough inspection biannually by the Ohio State Highway Patrol. While our buses always pass this inspection, our inspectors frequently comment about “our mechanics needing to patch our old buses together.”

 

There are certainly many other reasons to purchase new buses:  Better fuel efficiency, more environmentally friendly and certainly more safety features are included with new equipment.

 

 

QUESTION:  How many kids, broken down by Elementary/Middle/High, ride the buses each day?  How many would be eligible at each level if we cut to state minimums?

 

ANSWER:

GRADES

BUS RIDERS

ELIGIBLE IF CUT TO STATE MINIMUMS

ELEMENTARY (K-6)

2587

636

MIDDLE (7-8)

1064

435

HIGH (9-12)

1350

0

 

 

 

Exceptions (at the high schools) would be to transport to and from Delaware Career Center and Handicap.