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Higher minimum wage pushes up costs for Albion busing contract

Photo by Tom Rivers: Albion school buses head north of Main Street in this photo on Jan. 4, 2018.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 February 2019 at 12:14 pm

ALBION – The costs are going up 30 percent next school year to transport Albion students on buses.

School officials say rising minimum wage is the main reason for the increase by Student Transportation of America (Ridge Road Express), the district’s transportation provider the past 30 years.

For many years, Albion would just renew the contract each year with STA at a cost of living rate. But STA wasn’t willing to do that for next school year. The contract was re-bid, and STA came back with a proposal for a 30 percent increase. (Another company also submitted a proposal that was about double STA’s bid.)

Under Andrew Cuomo, who is starting his ninth year as governor, the minimum wage in Orleans County has gone from $7.25 to $11.10 this year. In 2020 it will be $11.80 and then $12.50 in 2021.

Student Transportation of America submitted the four low bids for the following contracts: $1,199,928 for the main student contract; $923,612 for the out-of-district contract; $105,000 for the student charter contract; and $97,740 for the summer school contract.

The out-of-district contract includes busing students with disabilities to schools in Rochester, Buffalo, Lockport and other sites outside of the county.

The higher minimum wage has pushed up the personnel costs for drivers and aides on the buses.

State aid covers about 90 percent of the transportation so the increase won’t be a direct hit to Albion school taxpayers.

Shawn Liddle, the district’s assistant superintendent of business, said that even with the increase Albion’s transportation costs are lower than similar-size districts.

Under the new contract, Albion will spend $1,094 per pupil for transportation costs. A nearby similar-size district spends $1,443 per pupil, Liddle said.

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