Monday, March 11, 2019

Worcester Finance and Operations takes up transportation (and the second quarter)

The agenda is here;
Second quarter report is up first, as Superintendent Binienda intends to attend (unusually) for transportation.
Balance being run plus charter hold aside being used for textbooks, security at Worcester Tech, and building repairs/environmental abatement
Mr. Foley says he's thrilled to see a full staff and vacancies covered in custodial.
pleased to see textbook allocation
Miss McCullough: nice to see utilities in positive this time
subcommittee votes to approve transfers as recommended

On to bid specifications for transportation
Mr. Foley asks administration to give summary of report, will allow questions from subcommittee, then take public comment

Allen: 223 vehicles transporting about 12,000 students each day
administration has conducted an analysis of self-facilitated transportation
as has been done in a number of other areas, zero-based budgeting
goes through history of district, of surrounding districts, of transportation audit
have conducted visits to districts that have switched to in-district services
Recommendation is a phased approached to student transportation that will possibly lead to full-self-conducted transportation in the future
first 7D vans switching
"the plan the superintendent has put forth would be this phased approach"
then will wish to review bid specs
next school year will be fifth year of a five year contract

Binienda interested in sending
"have felt that Durham has done a good job of meeting with us and addressing any issues"
meet with WPS transportation weekly; admin monthly
point of meetings is to bring up challenges and try to meet them
"And I really feel that they have done their best on that"
have worked on My Spot (GPS app)
have been working on a direct line from Durham to transporation
"have also felt their being very generous to us" to send staff to DCU Center
joint production  from South and Burncoat to Hanover
"never been a time that I've called them that they haven't gone an extra length for us"
"they stay positive on the collaboration that we have"

Allen on bid specs:
unless we can hold the contractor for the item we're not adding it
(thus for example, block heaters eliminated: "either they run or they don't run" says Allen)
supervisors required at both locations
elimination of substitute drivers now left to Durham ("again, either the bus runs or it doesn't run" and they get paid accordingly)
page 17 and 18 include new service credits that district would recover
made at recommendation of current contractor

Foley: no problem with the bid specs as recommended
find report
"inconsistency of report" with recommendation
"as I read the report, I find something very different here"
"this has been a tough year for bussing"
"what was included in that the fact that Durham has not been as responsive this year as they should have been"
getting from point A to point B
cameras not working
hoping to have GPS to have real time monitoring a year or so ago
the first question is "I haven't seen Durham performing"
"I'm concerned it's a national trend"
"our eleven buses have given us far better services...and greater levels of flexibility"
Binienda: "I don't agree with that: I think Durham has been responsive"
"we had some challenges ourselves"
"it's a process...they've tried to work with us"
"I truthfully don't think that this year has been difficult because of Durham"
Foley: "I think people would disagree with that"
would we have capacity?
Binienda: "We don't have the capacity...very few places take over transportation"
"We right now have our hands full with improving instruction and turnaround schools"
Foley: trend nationally is much more taking over transportation out there
would say to superintendent if we ran our own system could provide our own 'free' bussing as needed
and with far less expensive field trips
projection is to save $36M over ten years, and that's backloaded
$2M for first five years, significantly more over subsequent years
Allen: agree that it would be backend savings in latter years
Foley: from a cost savings point of year
Binienda: we don't definitely know we're going to make that savings
"the work, and who's going to be running the bus company...we're not a bus company system"
"don't have the capacity to do that and we don't have the expertise"
Foley: saving $400K
Binienda: believe that some that funding is rebates
Note the report says this: 
Overall, the transition of eleven district-operated big buses saved the district $402,000, with $208,000 invested in new support positions for transportation operations (see pages 62 and 176-177 of the FY19 budget book) resulting in FY19 savings of $194,000.
It is a different line than the contracted bus services Foley: we do take on in-house services that we have done very well and saved significant money
really a single operation nationally is Durham
"I worry about that...we're looking at a reduced time frame...any vendor will be looking to maximize their dollars...than over a five year contract"
driving this price through the roof and there's very little competition for the vendor
puts us at real risk of a very high bid
Binienda could come in lower

McCullough: can appreciate district focus on instruction
"one of the most frequent complaints I've gotten from community members has been bussing"
will change in bid open to other contractors?
Allen: as Mr. Foley correctly points out, there are probably only two contractors who could bid on a contract of this size
McCullough: it's a safety factor
in some cases parents not even calling anymore
"knowing it will save money and improve service"
"can we at least have a comparison of services?"
could we have buses for special services?
Allen: if we had more buses, yes
McCullough: routing, would make sense to take over sooner
would support at least looking to see a comparison over two to three years
have been contacted with a member of the Framingham School Committee
"this year it seems more prevalent than ever"

Comparetto: share concerns of using a private, for-profit company
"horrible customer service and really bad communication"
looking for best practices
best practice across the country: cities are bringing these services in house
have been having this conversation for ten years now

Monfredo: "very interesting topics"
"to be honest with you I haven't heard of many districts successfully providing transportation for our students"
at least take time to see what would work and does not work
"do think phasing in makes sense than jumping in on something that we're not even sure of"

Biancheria: a couple of things we need before we can look at this
need some examples: how many employees, how will house
when we look at the city of Worcester, we have WRTA, what are those issues?
do we use Worcester Airport as an example?
"we're not in the business of running buses; we're in the business of education"
"very fortunate that we've stayed with employees in the Worcester Public Schools"
"have I been happy with Durham under the past year? No...but that doesn't mean I would sit back and run my own bus company"
"doesn't mean we won't create additional challenges"
think we should "get the information compiled"
maybe we need to back up a little and look at the actual savings
"when you have bus drivers, you have unions...what would those union stipulations be?"
"need to look at all the costs...certainly open for all the getting this information together"
"communicated to everyone and the public"'

Allen (to Q from McCullough): the $400K was entirely through taking back routes, not taking credits

Valentin Goins: "have never had the problems we have had this year"
starting in the first week this year...late from August to February
"they get marked late...staff is rushing them...burden is being placed entirely on students to solve a systems issues"
systems solution
"staff should say that I should call the bus company...that's absurd...that's not a job we should be doing"
"to say that lack of existing capacity stop us..." does not make sense

Foley: still see the need to have a comparative bidding process
what would be timeline to take over service?
Allen: one is space and one is vehicles
"some time...but not years"
"next one is around employees...clearly the biggest issue we would face"

MOTION: to prepare two year with optional third year; to prepare a five year plan; and to have WPS to submit a bid to self-operate transportation
Allen: would go out end of month, would receive bids first week or so of May
motion passes
(note that it will still need to pass the full committee on March 21)

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