«Joel D. Montero Chief Executive Officer Fiscal crisis & ManageMent assistance teaM February 12, 2014 Jim Cloney, Superintendent Shasta Union High ...»
An arrangement could be developed in which a lead district provides transportation for the other two districts through a formal service contract, and the participating districts pay the lead district an amount per mile, route, or student. The three school districts should establish a work group committee to determine the type of formal cooperative agreement that would be mutually beneficial and a formula for charge-back of excess transportation expense to the lead agent.
Because Redding Elementary does not have transportation employees, it can change transportation providers at any time. Enterprise Elementary has transportation employees; therefore, the district would need to make a negotiated arrangement with the employee bargaining representative group. The three districts should also involve their employee group representatives in discussions on a lead district assuming the contractual coordination of home-to-school transportation for all three.
Joint Powers Agreement A joint powers agreement (JPA) is allowed and defined by the Joint Exercise of Powers Act, Title 1, Division 7, Chapter 5, Article I (Sections 6500 et seq) of the California Government Code.
This section allows government agencies to form a separate public agency to provide a common service. The powers of this new agency are identical to those of the agencies that formed it, and they should be clearly articulated in the JPA. The JPA itself is the document or contract that defines the service the agency will provide and outlines its powers and responsibilities. The agency bylaws are generally included in the agreement. A school transportation JPA can be created to provide the most beneficial structure for the school districts involved. The JPA can provide all operational services, or it can provide services by contracting with a for-profit provider, or any combination. Several school transportation JPAs in the state have employees, perform vehicle maintenance, own buses, and provide all operational services. Others have as few as one employee and contract for all services. Some JPAs are separate from the school districts that formed them, and others utilize a lead agency to provide administrative or personnel services. A JPA can also be formed to provide only services for vehicle maintenance, routing and dispatch, or driver training.
The JPA is governed by a board that is usually composed of one representative from each district, each having one vote, and is subject to the Ralph M. Brown Act.
Fiscal Issues The primary benefit of school transportation JPAs from the fiscal perspective is the economies of scale. The fixed costs of the Agency are shared by all of the members so there is less redundancy and greater efficiency. Even small school district transportation operations need to have administrative oversight, department supervision, a skilled driver instructor and vehicle maintenance capability.
FCMAT found there is a potential benefit in forming a transportation JPA between the districts involved in this study. The scope and size of a JPA could also include other Shasta County school districts as well as the county office.
If a stand-alone JPA is formed, the agency will need to contract separately with CalPERS for retirement benefits as a “Miscellaneous Other” agency. Under Education Code 41980, school districts that form school transportation JPAs can transfer the pupil transportation apportionment of each school district to the JPA, and file only one TRAN report. Shasta County JPA participants that have relinquished their state TRAN revenue to the county office would need to meet and confer on a possible transfer of funds claimed by the county office. A state TRAN transfer of revenue can be instituted through a signed agreement and submitted on a transfer form (J-141T); however, any agreement and specifics for a transfer are between the current claiming LEA and the requesting LEA.
The most difficult element, which will continue to be a significant issue for years as revenue is capped and expenses continue to rise, is creating a formula to assign revenue and assess costs to JPA members. Other JPAs in the state can be used to provide examples, but the agreement ultimately must reflect the values of the participants. Miles, minutes, and the number of routes or transported students are utilized individually or in combination to create a percentage for each member. Revenue can be distributed based on the historical “ownership” or it can be shared based on the percentage.
Capital costs can be included in the cost formula and driven by the percentage, or they can be separated and charged by some other method. An important element is a method for an entity
ShaSta Union high School DiStrict28 JOINT POWERS AGREEMENT
to partly or entirely withdraw from the agency. Most JPAs will require a minimum membership period before a member can withdraw.
The JPA should also be clear about ownership of assets and liabilities. Complete records should be maintained on contribution towards capital assets. The JPA should decide if members would have a right to a percentage of all assets, or only the assets to which they contributed.
Insurance is generally provided by the local school district insurance group. Before proceeding, a check should be performed to ensure that group rules allow the membership of a school transportation JPA and to determine the rates for property and liability, and workers’ compensation insurance.
The California Department of Education’s School Finance Division recognizes school transportation JPAs as any other separate LEA. These JPAs depend on their local county office for the same financial support that is generally given to county school districts such as payroll and accounts payable generation. In addition, the JPA is responsible for the same state reports as a district, including those for budget adoption, first and second interim, and unaudited actuals.
The largest impediment to the formation of a school transportation JPA will likely be Education Code 45103.1, originally Senate Bill (SB) 1419. Known as the California School Employees Association (CSEA) signature anti-contracting bill, the legislation does not specifically prohibit contracting, but places strict accountability on a district to prove that it is less expensive than using the classified employees. Although the formation of a JPA is not technically contracting, the California Association of School Transportation Officials (CASTO) and the School Transportation Coalition have worked with CSEA to allow an amendment for school districts to cooperatively provide services for each other or through a JPA.
No formal contract exists between the county office and the school districts it provides with transportation services except the home-to-school service provided to the Anderson Union High and Redding Elementary school districts. County districts can request transportation for their special education students based on county office availability, but they are not under any obligation to use the county office system since there is no contract. Additionally, most county school districts use the county office to transport some or all their special education students; therefore, they have an established practice of using an outside provider.
Staffing Issues Although fiscal incentives are typically the most significant motivators to form a JPA, other management issues often drive the discussion. Because of the size and affordability of small district operations, the superintendent or school principal usually administers transportation. This is a difficult task to perform efficiently and effectively without expertise and transportation experience. In many small districts, school secretaries also must handle the dispatch function and constantly monitor school bus two-way communications. School transportation is highly regulated, and criminal charges could be filed against the district and the superintendent for failure to follow legal requirements. A more knowledgeable and specialized agency can help address these issues and ensure compliance. In addition, bus drivers can often take a great deal of administrative time and resources to manage. School transportation management staff or team who have experience in transportation can often deal with these issues more effectively than those without training and experience.
Staff in the participating agencies often experience great uncertainty and anxiety. It is important for a stand-alone JPA to hire an administrator who has knowledge and experience in the program, but also in administration and fiscal and human resources issues. Most state JPAs that formed to provide full service hire many employees of the member districts. To ensure success, Fiscal crisis & ManageMent assistance teaM
JOINT POWERS AGREEMENTthe JPA generally provides employees with comparable or increased compensation and considers seniority dates and salary schedule placement. Most JPAs agree to a representation election shortly after formation and renegotiate the original collective bargaining agreement.
Successful JPAs generally work to provide an adequate professional staff based on agency needs, so some duplicated district positions may not be necessary.
A full-service JPA will need to ensure a skilled and adequate number of supervisors, vehicle maintenance staff, dispatchers, driver instructors, bus drivers, and office staff. The county office has an adequate staffing for the current transportation program, and any increase in bus routes would dictate the need for additional drivers. If Shasta Union collaborated with the Redding and Enterprise elementary school district to perform their home-to-school transportation, the high school district would need to add office support and vehicle maintenance staff as well as bus drivers to accommodate the route increase. The exact number of added support staff would depend on the routing increase and is impossible to determine without a routing study. However, any Shasta Union routing increase would require the addition of at least one office support personnel and vehicle mechanic.
Routing and Scheduling The state’s full-service JPAs have been formed from a high school district and its feeder elementary districts since the geography is identical, the student distribution is similar, and the high school and elementary districts typically travel the same routes. The overall number of routes can be reduced through cooperative routing. Coordinating bell times can allow one bus and driver to serve several schools. The route reduction can result in significant savings, but may require the districts to make shifts in bell times. Participating districts must decide whether the JPA can require districts to change bell times. The JPA should at least have the ability to recommend bell time adjustments, and the agreement should include language indicating enforceable conditions and if so, how they would be enforced.
Another aspect of routing and scheduling that affects costs is the district calendar. Coordination works best when participating members have a similar or common calendar since the more it varies, the more difficult it is to provide economical services. Therefore, participants should minimize these calendar differences and at least consider the impact of the calendar before approving their calendar. The JPA language should include calendaring issues.
District policies can differ regarding service zones, rider eligibility, and ride times. Some districts may have policies that specifically state the criteria for transporting students. Others may not have these policies, but transport students according to historical practice. For consistency, a JPA should adopt a standard policy that establishes criteria for service zones, bus riding eligibility, and length of ride times.
Field Trip Issues Because it is difficult for many school districts to retain bus drivers, they develop policies prohibiting the district from taking bus trips that conflict with regular bus route times. A JPA can generally avoid those issues because they attract and staff more drivers. Because JPAs create a larger program with a bigger staffing pool, they have greater resources and flexibility to accommodate unique transportation requests. Keeping trips in house instead of contracting typically reduces program costs.
ShaSta Union high School DiStrict30 JOINT POWERS AGREEMENT
Some JPAs market their field trip or vehicle maintenance capabilities to other school districts, private schools or local government agencies. They develop a nonmember rate designed to generate revenue that helps reduce the member costs.
More information on establishing a JPA, obtained from a previously published FCMAT report, is attached as Appendix A, Fiscal, Management and Operational Considerations of the Formation of a Joint Powers Agreement (JPA), to this report.
The districts should:
Special Education Transportation For years, the state’s county offices almost exclusively provided special education transportation service.
Beginning in the mid-1980s and following the state cap on school transportation funding, county offices began charging districts for the amount of the service that was no longer funded by the state.
Some districts began serving some of their own students because they could do so at less expense.
Districts began to select the easiest students to transport, leaving county offices with those who lived in remote areas or required significant effort. As a result, county office operations became less efficient and cost-effective.
Since the programs typically practice zero-sum operations, meaning they distribute all costs to participants, charges to the districts increased. Districts were motivated to take more students back and transport them directly or use alternative arrangements, which caused even greater increases in costs to the remaining districts. Some county offices stopped providing special education transportation, allowing the districts to perform this task and losing all the efficiencies of cooperation. In every case reviewed by FCMAT, special education transportation became less efficient and more costly with multiple district providers instead of a cooperative arrangement that can benefit from routing efficiencies.