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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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Although it is not a cooperative by definition, Dallas County Schools (DCS) is similar, as it is an education agency that provides transportation services for 14 school districts. Assistant Superintendent/Chief Financial Officer Wesley Scott says DCS has saved the districts money due to economies of scale in fuel purchasing.
<p>Although it is not a cooperative by definition, Dallas County Schools (DCS) is similar, as it is an education agency that provides transportation services for 14 school districts. Assistant Superintendent/Chief Financial Officer Wesley Scott says DCS has saved the districts money due to economies of scale in fuel purchasing.</p>

Overcoming challenges  
That said, Pinn acknowledges that a territorial attitude among employees joining the cooperative from a member district’s transportation department is one challenge those who form a cooperative may face.

Rea agrees, and he says one way to address this is by forming an identity for the cooperative that is separate from that of its member districts.  

“We created our own logo and letterhead, had uniformed shirts, etc.,” Rea says of WCTA. “Also, the employees are employed by the agency [not by the school districts].”

For Rea, WCTA’s formula for assigning revenue and assessing districts’ costs has caused issues during very tough economic times because some districts can feel that one is getting more money than another.

“Those formulas are generally as objective as possible,” he explains, “but I don’t think you’re ever going to get away from that challenge completely.”

To address issues associated with assigning revenue, Rea says WCTA has adjusted its funding formula over the years to benefit member districts that are having a particularly difficult time financially.  

Regular meetings with officials from each school district can also go a long way in keeping things peaceful.

WCTA has monthly board of directors meetings during the school year, and the superintendent from each member district serves on the board.

“I hand-deliver the board agenda packets, so if a superintendent wants to talk with me about any issue, I am right there,” Rea says.  

While challenges may present themselves occasionally, Ibarra says PTC runs smoothly, and he says one advantage of his operation is the composition of its governing board.

“It’s comprised of assistant superintendents or the chief business officials of the districts we serve,” he explains. “They aren’t elected folks — they understand budget and management, dealing with labor unions, etc.”    

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