LAKEWOOD, N.J. — A school district here is wasting over $1 million a year, a transportation consultant has found, on inefficient school bus routes that it outsourced to private companies, while some of its own buses go unused, Asbury Park Press reports.
The consultant, Ross Haber of Ross Haber Associates, was hired earlier this year to pinpoint potential cost savings in the public school transportation program, according to the newspaper. Lakewood Public School District spent about $9 million on public school transportation over the past school year.
The report comes after the district took a $28 million loan from the state to settle a budget deficit for the upcoming school year, Asbury Park Press reports. Rising transportation and special-education costs are the main reasons, school officials told the newspaper.
Haber’s preliminary findings are posted on the school district’s website and he shared an update on Thursday at a public meeting that was attended by school officials and dozens of district bus drivers and aides, Asbury Park Press reports. The report finds that inefficiencies include too many bus stops, empty seats on buses, and buses being contracted while some of the district’s own buses sit idle. Additionally, Haber found that routes are “poorly designed,” because they are based on outdated street maps that don’t reflect the township’s significant growth and use of routing software that hadn’t been updated for years until very recently.
According to its advertised budget, the district plans to spend $33 million on student transportation services in the 2018-19 school year, according to the newspaper. The majority of those funds, about $24 million, will go to the Lakewood Student Transportation Authority (LSTA), a pilot program sanctioned by the state that provides bus service for about 32,000 students attending private Orthodox Jewish religious schools. That program has shared some of the same issues as the public school busing program, but the new director of nonpublic transportation for the district, Avram Krawiec, said those issues have been corrected, Asbury Park Press reports.
Krawiec was hired to coordinate the public school busing program as well as the LSTA after the firing of district Transportation Director Lisa Vargas, according to the newspaper.