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«Joel D. Montero Chief Executive Officer Fiscal crisis & ManageMent assistance teaM February 12, 2014 Jim Cloney, Superintendent Shasta Union High ...»

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According to field trip documentation, the district performs approximately 70% of its requested field trips with the remaining provided by outside for-profit charter companies. Field trip transportation expenses are charged back to school sites at a flat scheduled rate developed by staff based on standard mileage and driver time to each common destination. The transportation director annually compares field trip revenue to actual expense and in the following year, adjusts as needed. However, flat rates for destinations have not altered for the last several years. If a trip exceeds the standard mileage or driver time, a reasonable additional charge of $2 per mile and $22.50 per hour for straight-time is applied. If overtime is warranted, the hourly charge-back increases to $34 per hour. The district’s method of identifying and applying rates for charging back school programs for field trips is efficient and should capture the actual costs of transportation operation and labor expense. However, the district should annually review rates and adjust accordingly the following year as a practice.

The district’s student enrollment and transportation participation have decreased over the last several years. AR 3541.4 stipulates a three-mile no-service zone for high school students, but the district practice is to allow ineligible students to ride buses as long as the vehicles are not overFiscal crisis & ManageMent assistance teaM


crowded. The district should modify this policy to formalize this practice. Although the district does not charge for student home-to-school transportation, it has instituted a bus-pass system.

The sites receive applications and process and issue passes.

The district transportation program has one full-time equivalent (FTE) director, one FTE secretary and 2.75 FTE vehicle maintenance personnel (mechanic I, mechanic III and a mechanic IV). The director of transportation and each vehicle maintenance staff member are also certified school bus drivers and act as substitutes as needed. While this staffing level is sufficient for normal operation, the office has only one support person to perform dispatch duties and handle telephone and office duties when the transportation director works as a substitute. If the district increases the transportation program’s size, it should review staffing to ensure adequate coverage of responsibilities.

The district concluded the 2012-13 school year transporting 86 students through the county office transportation system. There is no formal contract between Shasta Union and the county office to transport special education students, and the billing formula is not specific about the calculation of charges. The district is concerned about the increasing cost of transportation and the anticipated excess cost increase for special education transportation provided by the county office, but it has no control or knowledge of how expenses are calculated.

RecommendationsThe district should:

1. Secure the transportation facility with perimeter fencing to discourage theft and damage to facilities and equipment capital investment.

2. Create and implement clear procedures for identifying and placing special education students on district home-to-school bus routes.

3. Implement a decision tree and transportation request process identifying special education students requiring transportation, specific handicapping conditions and medical history, and needs pertinent to safely transporting these students.

4. Provide specialized and specific training for all Shasta Union bus drivers to transport special education students.

5. Train district psychologists to identify and facilitate the identification of a student requiring transportation, using the transportation decision tree, and utilizing the related transportation request documentation form.

6. Develop a contract for taxi services to protect the district and articulate the responsibilities and costs of the taxi cab transportation provider.

7. Request the county office provide a transportation agreement that is clear on the transportation formula used to determine excess cost based on anticipated student ridership.

8. Establish formal and regular meetings with the county office to resolve mutual transportation problems and discuss other related issues.

9. Develop a bus replacement schedule that adequately replaces units within service and fiscal limitations.

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10. Review billing rates annually and adjust accordingly in the following year as a practice.

11. Review and modify board policies and administrative regulations as needed.

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Because there is no formal contract for special education transportation between the county office and school districts, county office transportation service levels or requirements are not defined. As a result, it is difficult to contain costs when requests are made to initiate or terminate service to a student. Districts can opt into or out of service with little or no notice, leaving the transportation program committed to the existing route design and staff, and making it difficult to plan routes each year. The county office has specific formal contracts to transport home-to-school students with the Anderson Unified School District (seven routes), and the Redding Elementary School District (eight home-to-school routes/two special education routes). It should develop a contract specifically for special education transportation that specifies the responsibilities of each party and the formula for excess cost charge-back and is subject to annual review and acceptance.

The districts participating in the study misunderstand and mistrust the special education transportation excess cost charge-back from the county office. They do not believe the formula and calculation are clear or well communicated.

The following spreadsheet illustrates the changes in total pupils served, miles, and invoice amounts from 2006-07 to 2010-11. Eliminating county office transportation for the community school program in the 2010-11 school year had a significant impact on the special education

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The county office charge-back is legitimate since the county office passes through all transportation costs to those involved. To promote understanding and cooperation, the county office should hold regular meetings for the district chief business officials (CBOs), business managers and transportation directors/supervisors participating in the county office special education transportation contract. These meetings should help encourage regular discussion, address transportation problems early, and ensure all participants understand the redistribution of expenses as a result of service changes that include districts taking back transportation service and funding modifications.

The county office transportation program is staffed with one transportation director, one transportation supervisor, two dispatcher/schedulers,.5 FTE administrative assistant, and three lead drivers. The lead drivers are also assigned a regular bus route and work approximately two hours each on assigned office tasks focusing on student discipline, contacting parents and responding to concerns. Additionally, the program has one lead vehicle mechanic technician, three vehicle maintenance technicians and 21 school bus drivers (18 daily school bus routes and three driver floaters for assignment). The program does not have a dedicated state-certified school driver instructor position; however, two lead drivers, the supervisor and director are state- certified


school bus instructors and share in the required training tasks. One lead driver is specifically assigned to the Anderson Union High School District routes and needs and the other is assigned to the Redding Elementary routes and needs. The third lead driver is assigned to county office routes. Based on the number of routes, the county office transportation program is staffed adequately; however, if the program continues to reduce special education routing, it should decrease support personnel accordingly.

The county office reported operating 18 special education bus routes that transport approximately 156 students for a ratio of approximately 8.6 students per bus. This ratio is slightly low, but reasonable based on the county’s rural geography and distances travelled. All students are transported in yellow, conforming school buses; the county office does not use passenger vans or cabs for this purpose.

The county office charges reasonable rates for field trips. Internal programs pay $1 per mile and $21 per hour, and external trips are charged at the same rate plus an 8.5% indirect rate. Field trips for Redding Elementary are charged at an external customer rate of $1.35 per mile and $15.50 per hour.

The county office uses a software system called Filemaker Pro along with mapping assistance from Google Maps or MapQuest to generate Redding Elementary and Anderson Union High school district routes. Face sheets for special education routing are typed in Filemaker Pro with drivers creating handwritten 3-inch by 5-inch cards. Management reviews driver written directions for accuracy and efficient routing. The county office purchased an industry-standard transportation routing system called TransTraks two years ago, however its use was suspended, and none of the component modules are utilized. This is industry-standard software that can generate a bus route sheet, and identify stops and times. The county office should implement and utilize TransTraks for routing and the various other transportation modules. The initial cost of implementation, including additional staffing resources and training for startup, should be a prudent investment.

The county office operates a vehicle maintenance program under a separate budget to ensure completely separate tracking of these expenses from those for student transportation. The program charges $55 per hour for labor and a 10% markup for parts. The county office has determined that this cost structure generates sufficient revenue for vehicle maintenance to be completely self-supporting. It has maintenance contracts with multiple school districts and programs in the county, each paying the same rate for vehicle maintenance. Also included in the charge are the county office special education buses. The shop is self-supporting, and the vehicle maintenance charge structure is reasonable compared to others FCMAT has observed.

The county office purchases fuel at a local card-lock fuel retailer, and the program absorbs the vendor’s fuel mark-up as well as staff time and miles to take vehicles back and forth to the fuel station. The county office should investigate the possibility of having on-site fuel storage accessed through a fuel management system as a cost saving measure.

The county office owns, operates and maintains a fleet of 30 buses with an average age of 13.43 years. It previously included a bus replacement cost of $50,000 annually in the user charge-back formula; however, this charge was recently reduced to $15,000 annually. Sound management requires ongoing planning for vehicle replacement. Although the county office has a relatively new fleet, it does not appear that the reduced charge will adequately cover bus replacement. The county office should develop a school bus replacement plan based on anticipated mileage and maintenance expense. A replacement cost factor should be included in the charge-back formula Fiscal crisis & ManageMent assistance teaM


that aligns with the bus replacement plan. Additionally, the county office is the motor carrier of record for the Anderson and Redding school districts, adding 30 units to its fleet management.

The Shasta SELPA has a growing number of level 14 group homes, those requiring the highest level of care and services. The students in these homes have significant needs and often significant disciplinary issues requiring specialized care and training. The SELPA staff believes that standardized training for drivers of these students would be beneficial. The SELPA lacks specific guidelines, policy or a decision tree for approving transportation services, and some staff members are concerned that county and school district special education staff and psychologists sometimes provide transportation unnecessarily. The county office SELPA should create transportation policy and a decision tree to ensure transportation is provided only when necessary and in the least restrictive manner.

RecommendationsThe county office should:

1. Develop a transportation contract specific for special education transportation that articulates the responsibilities of each party involved, formula for excess cost charge-back expense and is subject to annual review and acceptance.

2. Institute regular meetings for CBOs, business managers and transportation directors/supervisors participating in the county office special education transportation contract to encourage regular discussion, resolve transportation issues early, and ensure all parties participate as partners.

3. Utilize TransTraks for routing and the various other valuable transportation modules it offers.

4. Investigate the advantages of having fuel storage on site accessed through a fuel management system.

5. Develop a school bus replacement plan based on anticipated accumulated mileage and analysis of the vehicle maintenance expense for inclusion in the user charge-back formula.

6. Develop transportation policy and a decision tree for county and district psychologists and special education staff to ensure transportation is provided only when necessary and in the least restrictive manner.

7. Train drivers on special handling and care for group 14 students.

8. Routinely evaluate staffing based on needs and services provided, and adjust it accordingly within CBA and legal allowances.

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County Office Transportation Costs and Charge-Back Formula The county office has created a reasonable and common charge-back formula for transportation services to assess costs back to districts. The formula consists of the actual driver cost as well as a

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