PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Public Schools board recently approved a transportation contract that saves the district more than $1.8 million over the next two school years.
The district collaborated with its 19 transportation providers to form the agreement, which was approved on Aug. 22.
Ted Vasser, director of pupil transportation, told SBF that the driving force behind the new contract was Pittsburgh Public Schools’ financial challenges. But the district made it a priority to avoid any reductions in transportation service.
“Like a lot of other school districts, funding was becoming an issue,” Vasser said. “It was very important to try to minimize costs.”
To come up with the new agreement, Vasser and his team first brought the 19 transportation companies, which run about 780 vehicles for the district, together at one time and then met with each individually.
“We explained to them the financial situation that our school district was in,” Vasser explains. “Then we talked with them about how we could save money without impacting the children. And our companies did have an open ear. They were very understanding about our situation, and they really tried to help.”
The original transportation contract, approved in May 2009, was effective from July 1, 2009, through June 30, 2014. It included a 3% rate hike for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years.
The new deal, which will run until 2016, froze that rate increase. As part of the agreement, the transportation carriers will now maintain the radios and cameras installed on the school buses. Also, the replacement life for buses was extended from 10 to 12 years.
“The district will save a large amount on the upkeep of radio and camera technology,” Vasser said.
He pointed out that there was no increase to walking distances for students, noting that the district’s main aim was “to not impact the children.”
Peter Camarda, chief financial and operations officer for Pittsburgh Public Schools, added that the contract “not only assists the district in being financially sustainable, it also avoids a service reduction to our students.”
In all, the two-year savings from the contract extension is more than $1.8 million — about $1.2 million of which is from the rate freeze.
Vasser stressed that the new contract couldn’t have happened without the cooperation of the transportation carriers.
“They didn’t have to agree to this, but they did it in good faith,” he said. “That’s how we made it happen.”