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October 29, 2012  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

Co-ops yield cost savings, boost efficiency for districts

Officials from transportation cooperatives around the country also say that they can lead to consistency in employee training and hiring, and managing and scheduling bus routes for districts. Officials discuss factors to consider when forming a cooperative, as well as potential challenges and ways to resolve them.

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Officials at pupil transportation cooperatives say that the facility should be large enough to accommodate the maintenance needs of all member districts. Pictured is Centralia/Chehalis Pupil Transportation Cooperative’s facility in Centralia, Wash.

Officials at pupil transportation cooperatives say that the facility should be large enough to accommodate the maintenance needs of all member districts. Pictured is Centralia/Chehalis Pupil Transportation Cooperative’s facility in Centralia, Wash.

With school districts across the country continuing to feel the effects of a tough economic climate, transportation officials are frequently looking for ways to cut costs. One option to consider is joining a pupil transportation cooperative. Under a cooperative, one agency usually oversees all transportation services for its member districts, and members pay a fee to join.

The amount of cost savings for a member district will vary depending on its size and numerous other factors. Mike Rea, executive director of West County Transportation Agency (WCTA) in Sonoma County, Calif., says that his agency saved one of its 16 member school districts $775,000 in one year compared to what it would have cost to continue to provide transportation service on its own.      

On the other side of the country, in Hopatcong, N.J., Sussex County Regional Transportation Cooperative saved several of its member districts almost $1.3 million last year by restructuring and re-bidding their routes, according to Coordinator Amanda Ferrington. 

Amanda Ferrington (front row, second from left), coordinator for the Sussex County Regional Transportation Cooperative in Hopatcong, N.J., says the cooperative saved several of its member districts almost $1.3 million last year by restructuring and re-bidding their routes.
<p>Amanda Ferrington (front row, second from left), coordinator for the Sussex County Regional Transportation Cooperative in Hopatcong, N.J., says the cooperative saved several of its member districts almost $1.3 million last year by restructuring and re-bidding their routes.</p>
Districts will also save money due to economies of scale. For instance, Dan Ibarra, director of the Pupil Transportation Cooperative (PTC) in Whittier, Calif., says there’s  increased efficiency because you have one set of employees serving multiple districts, eliminating redundant staffing.  

“There’s one training group, one management group and one vehicle maintenance operation that serve all seven districts,” he explains of PTC.  

Although Dallas County Schools (DCS) is not a pupil transportation cooperative by definition, it is similar, as it is an education agency that provides transportation services for 14 independent school districts.

DCS Assistant Superintendent/Chief Financial Officer Wesley Scott says districts will benefit from economies of scale in fuel purchasing.

“Because of the amount of fuel that we buy, our purchasing contract allows us to buy fuel for significantly less than what I see out there for other school districts,” he explains.

Lionel Pinn, director of transportation for the Centralia/Chehalis Pupil Transportation Cooperative in Centralia, Wash., says that cooperative programs create reduced employee medical and dental costs, and fees for federally mandated programs, such as random drug and alcohol testing, are lower.

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