Bus drivers for Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District No. 6 in Cottonwood, Ariz., work on six to 12 charter trips annually, which Transportation Director Debbie Wheaton says generates some extra money for the district.
Service for community groups creates extra revenue, work for bus drivers
In addition to bus advertising, Graf says Houston ISD is reaching out to smaller school districts and school organizations to inquire about providing transportation for their areas of service.
"We have one organization that's interested. It will require about 25 additional routes for the district and will bring in about $1 million in revenue. From that revenue, we would have to pay our expenses," Graf says.
Providing services for other operations and groups within their communities is a way that many districts' transportation departments and bus companies generate extra revenue.
Balon says Douglas County School District's transportation department provides its services for approximately 2,400 field trips for church groups and private schools annually, which generates about $200,000 for the district.
For Miller Transportation, the company's work during the summer months results in a substantial amount of money. Todd Edwards, school bus operations manager for Miller Transportation's Indianapolis branch, says the company provides transportation for YMCAs in Marion, Hamilton, Hendrix and Boone counties, as well as all of the summer camp transportation for the Indianapolis Parks and Recreation Department.
"We have a couple of schools that we do field trip transportation for," Edwards adds. "Between all of the service, it generated a little over $2 million."
The money was used to purchase new school buses for the company.
Aside from offering information about its services on its website, Edwards says Miller Transportation gets much of its business through word-of mouth recommendations, achieved, he adds, through the company's effort to provide personal, one-on-one attention to all of its clients.
For the transportation staff at Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District No. 6 in Cottonwood, Ariz., requests for service for charter trips also come through word of mouth, according to Transportation Director Debbie Wheaton.
The operation only performs six to 12 charter trips per ye
Houston Independent School District began running an ad from the College Board Advocacy & Policy Center on its school buses in April. Ads like this have helped to generate more than $50,000 for the district so far.
ar because Wheaton doesn't want to interfere with their home-to-school transportation service.
"I wouldn't say we generate a lot of money from these charters, but it does give drivers additional work and it puts a little change in our coffers from time to time," Wheaton says. "The money that we generate goes back into the transportion portion of the district's budget for fuel and for the drivers' wages."
Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District No. 6's transportation department charges a maximum of $14 per hour for charter trips, which is the hourly wage of the district's highest paid drivers.
"We charge the highest amount for wages because we never know who's going to do the trips. If it's a driver that makes $12 an hour, we're going to generate a little bit of money — the district would see a $2-an-hour profit," Wheaton explains.
Department benefits from mutual transportation agreement
The transportation department at Orange (Calif.) Unified School District has raised $90,000 in additional revenue by transporting students who attend other school districts in Orange County for home-to-school and activity/field trips.
The service is provided under a mutual transportation agreement that the operation participates in with other school districts in the county.
Pamela McDonald, transportation director at Orange Unified School District, decided to work on drafting a mutual transportation agreement after helping other districts in the county with transportation for field trips, grad nights and other activities over a period of several years.
"I got to thinking that instead of taking all of these individual agreements to our school board for approval, why don't we see if we can do a mutual agreement with the school districts in Orange County?" McDonald explains.
Orange (Calif.) Unifi ed School District's transportation department has made $90,000 by providing school bus service for other districts in Orange County under a mutual transportation agreement.
McDonald organized a meeting at the Orange County Department of Education in which individuals who oversee the districts' business offices were asked to attend. A legal advisor was also invited. McDonald says it took about a year and a half to finalize the first agreement, which then ran for a year and a half. When officials met to renew the agreement, it was set for five years. McDonald will meet with the legal advisor next year to draw up an agreement for another five years.
She says the agreement is good for field trips, home-to-school transportation (if it's an emergency) and times when a district has a homeless student who moves and needs immediate transportation to a school outside the district's area of service.
"It's important to note that it's not our intent to compete with private enterprise," Transportation Supervisor Ellen Johnson adds. "There's an agreement among us [the participating districts] that when you call needing assistance for transportation for things like grad night, it's because you've exhausted all other options from outside resources, like when all of the charter companies are booked."
Johnson also says that establishing a policy about driver pay was an important component that was discussed when drafting the mutual transportation agreement.
Under the agreement, the operation requesting service must pay the district the rate that it pays its bus drivers. For example, Orange Unified School District's bus drivers make their normal salary whether they're driving for their district or another operation.
In terms of handling transportation for other school districts, McDonald says she will often send her more senior, experienced drivers to the districts with route sheets, especially for home-to-school service. Orange Unified School District's substitute bus drivers then cover the veteran drivers' routes.