«Joel D. Montero Chief Executive Officer Fiscal crisis & ManageMent assistance teaM February 12, 2014 Jim Cloney, Superintendent Shasta Union High ...»
Enterprise Elementary owns and operates a 9-bus fleet providing transportation for eligible home-to-school students. Two buses are special education units with wheelchair capability. The average bus age is 15.2 years, according to district documentation. Although the district fleet is small, it is important to establish a replacement schedule to help avoid the need for last-minute replacement when a major maintenance problem occurs or a vehicle breaks down. The district should develop this type of schedule, indicating one bus replacement every two years.
The district employs six bus drivers operating six routes (five for home-to-school service and one for special education students) and recently employed a new transportation supervisor who is also a state-certified school bus instructor. Through negotiations, all bus drivers who worked eight hours per day were reduced to 5.75 hours. These new hours coincide with their total bus route times, more accurately reflect the assigned work, and result in a savings to the district.
The district has a transportation no-service zone of three-quarters of a mile for students in grades K-3, one mile for grades 4-6, and 1.5 miles for grades 7-8 (Board Policy 5090). This eligibility criteria aligns with what FCMAT finds in most district board and administrative regulations for pupil transportation. For the 2012-13 school year, the district transported 607 home-to-school students and approximately 22 special education students. The county office transports another 28 special education students. The district’s bus parking facility, which is next to a fire station, is an open area that is not securable and is vulnerable to vandalism. The facility is shared with the district’s food services warehouse and is not conducive to being used as an office or for staff meetings. The department needs a secured space for the bus fleet that can also be used for an office.
The district outsources its bus maintenance services and does not manage fuel storage on-site. It uses CFN card-lock facilities for fuel and A&N Diesel for most vehicle maintenance and road call services. All major vehicle repairs and safety inspections are contracted at a labor rate of $85 per hour plus parts cost and mark up. Although the vendor labor rate is within industry standards for labor and parts according to what FCMAT has most recently found in other studies, the rates are lower at the county office and the Shasta Union High School District. The district could negotiate a more competitive vehicle maintenance contract through the current vendor, the county office, Shasta Union or another local service provider. The transportation supervisor can address minor issues such as replacing lights.
The district scheduled and performed approximately 167 field trips during the 2012-13 school year. The rate charged for the 2011-12 school year was $1.98 per mile and $22.82 per hour. This rate does not include a minimum charge-back that is sufficient to cover the actual transportation expenses. The district should review field trip costs and charge back at rates that are sufficient to capture actual transportation expenses.
The district also uses a private cab company, ABC Cab, to transport homeless students according to the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act 11431. The fees charged per pupil by this vendor far exceed the county office excess charge-back to the district. The district may be able to
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transport some or all homeless students on district or county office buses at a savings. The district should explore a cooperative contract with surrounding school districts such as Shasta Union or the county office for these services and use a competitive bid with local cab or shuttle vendors as an additional alternative.
The district is concerned with the increasing cost of transportation and the anticipated rise in excess cost of having special education students transported by the county office. It should develop a contract with the county office that is more specific and understandable regarding the charge-back formula and how it is determined.
Recommendations The district should:
1. Establish a school bus replacement schedule indicating the replacement of two units every five years.
2. Locate secured facility space for its bus fleet and office needs.
3. Review the benefits of contracting for vehicle maintenance needs through the high school district, the county office, or a neighboring district with vehicle maintenance capability.
4. Review the field trip rate to ensure it captures actual transportation costs.
5. Explore alternatives for transporting homeless students through a competitive bid for local cab or shuttle vendors. Additionally, the district could explore a cooperative contract with surrounding school districts such as Shasta Union or the county office for these services.
6. Develop a contract for the ABC Cab company.
7. Develop a special education transportation contract with the county office that is more specific and clear regarding the charge-back formula and how it is determined.
Shasta Union High School District The Shasta Union High School District is one of four districts serving high school students in Shasta County. It is the largest of these, encompassing approximately 1,863 square miles and serving about 4,532 students from 16 K-8 elementary feeder districts.
The district is composed of three comprehensive high schools: Shasta, Foothill, and Enterprise.
The district transportation program’s vehicle maintenance garage and offices are located in an unsecured area at the district office and Shasta High School complex next to special education and alternative education classroom facilities. The district owns and supports 24 school buses and maintains approximately 11 additional buses for other districts in the county. The district should secure its transportation facility with fencing to prevent theft and damage as well as to secure its equipment.
The district operates 14 daily bus routes transporting approximately 800 home-to-school students. In recent years, Shasta Union took back most of its special education programs from the county office. The number of special education students who ride home-to-school buses on individualized education programs (IEPs) is unclear because the district does not have a practice Fiscal crisis & ManageMent assistance teaM
DISTRICT AND COUNTY OFFICE SERVICESof identifying these pupils. On county office SELPA documentation, the district appears not to transport any of these students. A special education student riding on a home-to-school bus route is occasionally identified, but only when a disciplinary issues arises. Several staff interviews indicated the district’s special education and transportation program staff need to communicate more effectively to identify special education students riding district home-to-school bus routes. The district should institute clear procedures for identifying and placing special education students on district home-to-school routes.
District staff stated that the IEP process is conducted by school psychologists who have received direction on transportation as a necessary related service in the least restrictive manner. However, FCMAT found that the district has no documented process for identifying students who qualify to receive these services. As a result, they may be inconsistently identified. The district also lacks a documented transportation request form to identify special education students requiring transportation. The district should implement the use of a form called a “decision tree” and transportation request form identifying special education students who require transportation, including specific handicapping conditions and medical history and a protocol for pertinent issues such as seizures and others to safely transport these pupils. All district psychologists should be trained to identify students requiring transportation. High school district bus drivers should receive specialized and specific training in transporting special education students. Most of the district’s identified population of special education students requiring transportation rides county office buses. Although the district owns one special education bus with wheelchair capability, it does not operate a dedicated special education bus route.
The district’s special education director occasionally authorizes the placement of a student requiring transportation on a taxi cab. The district does not have a contract for a taxi cab service to ensure the necessary protocol is followed in determining the cost for requiring background checks of private vendor employees. The district should use this type of contract for its own protection and to specify the responsibilities and costs of the provider.
The district cited a few issues concerning special education students transported by the county office. In one, the district requested that the county office transport two students with problematic behavior, but the county office believed that putting them in a bus together could be a problem, so it suggested the district take one while it transported the other. A resolution was not reached, and an adjusted transportation request was not submitted by the district Another issue involved a student who used a wheelchair and was transported by the county office to school each morning. When the district requested that the county office transport the wheelchair home in the afternoon while the pupil was picked up by his mother for medical reasons, the county office declined. The county office’s position is reasonable since its charge-back formula is based on students transported and miles driven; therefore, carrying the wheelchair alone would incur additional miles and overhead with no direct billing to recover these costs.
The county office and districts do not have a specific contract and charge-back formula for transporting special education students. Therefore, the county office does not have a contractual obligation to provide service to districts upon individual requests. It is difficult for any collaborative transportation effort to initiate or discontinue transportation for its participants if they can choose the students transported. All involved parties should meet regularly to ensure effective communication is maintained, and problems are resolved as soon as possible. The districts should develop a county office contract that is more specific and clear about adding or reducing services, the charge-back formula, and how it is determined. This type of contract would specifically identify methods for developing an individual district’s charge-back such as a per-child cost
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and how that cost would be developed. The contract would identify other items factored into a charge-back formula such as overhead expenses for operating, staffing, vehicle replacement, and utility and facility expenses.
The district has a 24-bus fleet with an average unit age of 11.8 years. Although the fleet is moderate in size, it is important to establish a school bus replacement schedule to prevent the need for last-minute replacement when a serious maintenance issue occurs or a bus breaks down.
The district should develop a school bus replacement schedule identifying one bus replacement annually. During the 2012-13 school year, the district operated 15 bus routes, but has reduced the number over the last several years because of declining enrollment and service reductions for home-to-school general education transportation. Shasta High School has eight bus runs, Foothill High School has 11, and Enterprise High School has one.
The Shasta Union transportation program also provides bus maintenance for other school districts on a fee-for-service basis. Compared to other transportation programs recently reviewed by FCMAT, the district has a competitive rate of $65 per hour with an added surcharge of 30% above cost for parts and supplies. This pricing structure is more similar to an internal vehicle maintenance labor cost per hour. The district provides maintenance to Grant Elementary (three buses), Junction Elementary (seven buses) and Millville Elementary (three buses). In the past, the district also provided vehicle maintenance for the Black Butte Elementary School District with six buses, but that district now contracts with the county office. The district has on-site above-ground diesel and unleaded fuel storage monitored and tracked through an electronic fuel management system. The vehicle maintenance program is well organized and has instituted an electronic program for monitoring 45-day/3,000 mile school bus safety checks (Title 13 of the California Code of Regulations).
Board policy (BP 3541.4) allows the district to lease buses to other school districts. According to district staff, this occurs only occasionally; however, the self-insurance joint powers agreement (JPA) would only allow this practice for districts in the same risk pool. Therefore, it is preferable to outsource a bus and driver, charging the requesting district for the expense. Leasing buses can open the district to additional and excessive liability and increased premiums. If a driver from another district were involved in an accident with a Shasta Union bus, premiums could increase for Shasta Union. The district should discuss Board Policy 3541.4 with risk management and the insurance provider and adjust as necessary.