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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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West County Transportation Agency in Sonoma County, Calif., serves 16 school districts. Executive Director Mike Rea says all districts must be members for home-to-school and special-education transportation.
<p>West County Transportation Agency in Sonoma County, Calif., serves 16 school districts. Executive Director Mike Rea says all districts must be members for home-to-school and special-education transportation.</p>

Billing and fleet. Rea says districts joining WCTA must be a member for both home-to-school and special-education transportation. New members must pay a $25,000 fee that is spread out over five years.

“We fold new members into any costs that we have, so it spreads out the base for other members, and they only gain ownership based on what they’ve contributed,” he adds.  

Ibarra says PTC’s billing for member districts is derived from the usage percentage of the total budget, which is derived from the students transported and the number of miles operated.

In addition to billing, the composition of the cooperative’s fleet must be taken into account.

“Will you accept their [a member district’s] fleet and make it part of the cooperative’s fleet?” Ibarra asks. “If you have too many different parts and types of fuel, maintaining it becomes a nightmare.”

What will you do with incumbent district staff? Officials say you have to think about whether you will incorporate employees from the member district’s transportation team or if you will hire from the outside.

Ibarra says that you will have to negotiate with a bargaining unit regarding wage scales, assuming that blending staff from member districts into the cooperative is a goal.

Be prepared to lose some autonomy. Scott says this is important because district officials will be making decisions as a team.  

Pinn agrees. “Detaching from the destructive ‘our territory’ mentality and realizing that your operation needs supportive bridges to survive is a logical step,” he says. “With the increasing budgetary reductions, transportation programs have been forced into a collaborative and cooperative existence.”

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