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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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proportion of all fixed costs. It includes the following:

–  –  –

• Cost pool is divided by FTE percentage of all bus routes

• Bus replacement is only included in the special education cost pool and has been recently reduced to $15,000 per year. (previously was $50,000 annually)

–  –  –

California School Transportation Funding History Until 1977, school transportation services were fully funded in California. School districts reported their current-year operational expenses at year end and received full reimbursement the next year. However, reimbursement was reduced slowly in subsequent years as one of the many effects of Proposition 13. In the 1982-83 school year, the reimbursement percentage to districts providing transportation was established at 80% of reported costs. Funding was capped based on what districts reported that school year, and a cost-of-living adjustment has been granted only occasionally since then. As a result, revenue to districts has not kept pace with increasing transportation expenses for the past 30 years, requiring greater contributions from the unrestricted funds. An additional deficit of state transportation revenue of approximately 20% for the immediate past four budget cycles has been imposed. According to the California Department of Education (CDE), the transportation funds received by state school districts now cover an average of approximately 35% of transportation expenses.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) established from the federal congressional passage of law PL94-142 in 1978 further affected funding, causing many school districts to reduce or eliminate nonmandated home-to-school transportation. As a result of IDEA legal requirements, students are evaluated and provided with an IEP. The IEP team may identify and mandate support services to ensure students receive equal access for their program needs including transportation services. As special needs students receive more support, less is available for nonmandated transportation services.

State-Approved Expenses and Revenue Thirty years ago, fewer students attended the Shasta Union High, Redding Elementary and Enterprise Elementary school districts, and the Shasta County Office of Education combined than the number of those who attend each individual entity today.

Transportation data from each school district and county office is reported at the end of each fiscal year. The Form TRAN, referred to as the TRAN report, collects various transportation data including the average number of buses used, average number of students served, total miles, and

expenses. Data is tracked in the following two categories:

1. Home to school. This includes transportation for regular education transportation and for nonsevere special education students.

Severely disabled/orthopedically impaired (SD/OI). Definition and criteria for students in these categories is found in California Education Code Section 56030.5.

The following chart identifies 2010-11 and 2011-12 TRAN data for each of the four local education agencies.

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As the table indicates, the three districts do not receive SD/OI revenue. This is because these funds are claimed by the county office as the transportation provider for most Shasta County districts. The highest transportation funding for each district was in the 2008-09 school year and represents what is referred to as the district’s approved apportionment. Home-to-school approved apportionments were $611,254 for Shasta Union, $239,831for Redding Elementary, and $147,615 for Enterprise Elementary. The county office SD/OI approved apportionment was $1,051,671; it did not receive one for home to school. Although the county office does contract with the Anderson High and Redding Elementary school districts, both submit their own individual state TRAN reports and claim home-to-school revenue. These amounts have been decreased by approximately 20 percent over the past four years. Additionally, if the local educational agencies (LEAs) claim less than the above amounts in each category, their apportionments will be decreased to the lower amounts. Each LEA must annually submit to the CDE a report of transportation costs and specific data as a part of the unaudited actual financial reporting.

The district and county office contributions or encroachment on the unrestricted general fund reflects poor funding of school transportation in California and increased expenses resulting from the growth of pupil transportation service.

Transportation provided by contracts with outside parties such as taxi or shuttle vendor services have been inappropriately reported on the TRAN. However, this does not affect district revenue allocation since total expenses exceed revenue by a greater amount than what was incorrectly reported. Only agency transportation expenses and students transported for home-to-school or SD/OI should be reported and claimed on the TRAN report.

Fiscal crisis & ManageMent assistance teaM


Collaborative and Formal Partnerships District transportation services in more rural student populations such as Shasta County often experience a greater fiscal impact than urban districts because of the greater distances pupils are transported to their education programs. As a result, collaboration among groups such as districts, county offices, and joint powers agreements (JPAs), were established to share transportation expenses and help mitigate individual district costs. Collaborative partnerships for student transportation should result in greater cost efficiencies by pooling all students from a geographic region, sharing resources, and a sharing in total excess cost by a greater number of participants.

As demands for special education transportation have increased, so have related expenses to support often very specialized levels of student transportation. Combined with the capping of state student transportation revenue to districts, the excess costs charged to individual districts have escalated across the state. Because of pressure from participating agencies, collaboratives from across the state are reviewing their transportation programs, looking for greater transparency of costs and excess charge-backs to their partners, and evaluating alternatives to transport students.

Rural school districts typically benefit the most from participating in collaborative transportation. All parties in a collaboration should fully understand and agree on the mechanism for sharing expenses. They should also comprehend that removing students from the collaborative will reduce the number of pupils and/or districts used to distribute costs, increasing the proportional expense for all remaining participants.

The cooperative arrangement between the county office and the three school districts requesting this study is also subject to the consideration of the other districts served by the county office.

While several options exist, larger and more extensive collaborations typically yield the most operational efficiencies and service flexibility, according to FCMAT’s observations of transportation operations throughout the state.

Two of the districts in Shasta County formally contract with the county office for home-toschool transportation. The cost is specific and established in both contracts as opposed to charging actual costs. This is appropriate and beneficial for both since costs are known and can therefore be budgeted in advance. The county office can adjust contract rates annually to account for changing operational costs.

Three cooperative organizational designs to consider are:

1. Partnering or contracting services with one or more entity such as a neighboring or feeder district, county office, or private vendor.

2. Forming a cooperative with one agency acting as lead.

3. Developing a joint powers agreement.

Cooperative with One Lead Agency The state has many examples of cooperative school transportation arrangements. In most cases, larger district transportation operations provide services for a smaller school district. Cooperatives can be formed for one or more specific service such as routing and scheduling services, bus route services, field trips, or vehicle maintenance; or they can be comprehensive and provide for all ShaSta Union high School DiStrict

24 C O L L A B O R AT I V E A N D F O R M A L PA R T N E R S H I P S

aspects of transportation. The best practice would be to have a formal agreement that specifies the scope of services and the rate to be charged.

A regular education home-to-school transportation cooperative could result in additional savings for the Shasta Union High, Redding Elementary, and Enterprise Elementary school districts by providing greater economies of scale for operational support and staffing. A common model for cooperative contracts is for an overlying high school district serving several elementary feeder school districts to function as lead agency. Even greater efficiencies can be achieved if all participating districts agree on a master bell schedule that includes using buses for several runs in the morning and afternoon. This arrangement also provides greater access to a variety of buses for activity and field trips since the overall fleet is larger and reduces the necessity of contracting with for-profit charter bus providers.

Facilities are also a factor since they will need to be created or expanded. A cooperative arrangement could designate Shasta Union as the lead agent providing service for the two elementary districts included in this study. While the Shasta Union transportation facility may have the capacity for some expansion, additional bus parking and facilities access to areas in the other districts would likely be a better solution.

Alternatively, a cooperative venture could be created between the two elementary districts since they are located next to one another. However, both districts would need to invest significantly in capital and operations because neither has adequate facilities or structure.

A key to a successful transportation cooperative is getting individual school systems to communicate the savings and other benefits for student transportation.

Before confirming any cooperative agreement, an extensive review of the three districts’ bell schedules should be performed so they can be aligned as efficiently as possible to benefit all participants.

Although each district has some separation between individual school start and end times, additional schedule adjustments could result in a two- or three-tier bell schedule in the morning and afternoon, allowing a reduction in the overall number of buses. The more runs a bus and driver can perform in the morning and afternoon, the fewer buses will be necessary, and the more efficient the program. Each of the three districts has identified early-out collaboration days. These days would need to be collectively determined, and a master calendar developed to help align bell times and reduce scheduling conflicts. Bell schedules could be staggered between schools to accommodate transportation service as is done at most K-12 unified districts; however, the three districts would benefit from a cooperative transportation arrangement even without bell schedule changes.

Efficiencies would also be realized by comingling K-12 students in outlying areas. Although this model may be foreign to an elementary or a high school district, it is common throughout the state. Student ridership behavior can often improve because older, more responsible students can be assigned a lead role and model behavior for the younger students.

Creating a larger transportation organization would essentially allow all participants to benefit from economies of scale. The savings presumably would be achieved due to the reduction in overhead and redundancy. Following is a brief analysis of a consolidated transportation operation

efficiencies using two calculation methods:

1. Route calculation: Without bell schedule alterations at any of the three participant school districts, Shasta Union would continue to operate 14 bus routes, Enterprise Elementary would continue to operate six, and Redding Elementary would continue with 10. However, economies of scale would Fiscal crisis & ManageMent assistance teaM


result from operating 30 bus routes. Some routes could be reduced or eliminated by consolidating bus runs. Thirty routes with an approximate (industry average) annual operational expense of $60,000 each would result in a total expense of approximately $1.8 million. The state revenue in 2012-13 for each district totaled $1,002,880. Using this calculation method, the excess costs back to the districts should be approximately $797,120; a savings of $292,187 compared to the unrestricted general fund contribution of $1,089,307 for 2012-13.

2. Budget object calculation: Staffing for a cooperative venture would need to have a director, supervisor, dispatcher, 3.5 mechanics, 33 bus drivers (including one driver for each route and three cover drivers). The approximate expense for all salaries and benefits would be approximately $1.3 million. Fuel and oil would be approximately $290,000, tires $35,000, and other operating expenses approximately $200,000. Total approximate cost for salaries and expenses would be $1,825,000, a projected savings of approximately $267,187.

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A cooperative venture with one lead district could yield an additional savings and enhance transportation flexibility for students at all three districts. The districts should further discuss this option. Sufficient time should be given to analyze the benefits of developing a mutually beneficial master bell schedule, facility assessment, and joint property usage.

A formula would need to be negotiated and refined to determine the operating elements that would be considered in developing and assessing expenses to be charged to each participating district.

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