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Lyndonville school district says transportation costs will take big jump

File photo by Tom Rivers: Kids get help crossing Route 63 after being dropped off by a Lyndonville school bus on a rainy May 5, 2017.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 February 2019 at 12:00 pm

District will consider if it should hire own bus drivers for service

LYNDONVILLE – The school district may be looking at a significant increase in the costs of transporting students.

The district’s current transportation provider, Student Transportation of America (Ridge Road Express), notified Lyndonville it won’t accept a renewal of the contract at a cost-of-living rate.

STA wants to keep providing service to Lyndonville, but said the contract needs to be rebid to reflect higher operating costs.

STA also has provided the service to Albion the past 30 years and that contract was rebid, with STA the low bidder – at a 30 percent increase.

The company has told school leaders the rising minimum wage is pushing up operational costs with bus drivers and aides getting paid more money.

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.

Joe DiPassio Jr., Lyndonville’s school business administrator, has tentatively budgeted for a 44 percent increase in transportation costs or $308,064. That would go from $701,300 to $1,009,364.

“I’m hoping it won’t be that high,” he told the Board of Education on Monday.

Lyndonville is rebidding the bus contract and it may be a joint bid with Barker and Roy-Hart. The economies of scale could get the three districts a better deal, said Jason Smith, Lyndonville’s district superintendent.

The districts will use a consultant to try to reach out to more transportation companies. Albion only had two bidders. STA’s bid was actually about half the cost of the other company’s proposal.

Lyndonville’s low bid for the service may be less than the $308,000 increase DiPassio put in the budget. He didn’t want to underestimate the cost and have the district scrambling to find the money. State aid will cover about 90 percent of the cost, but there is a lag of about a year in that reimbursement, DiPassio said.

He is putting together a tentative budget by March 1, because Lyndonville’s projected budget for spending and the tax levy need to be submitted to the state. The budget can be modified before it goes to a public vote on May 21.

Lyndonville’s budget right now calls for a 2 percent tax increase, which stays under the tax cap.

Transportation is the biggest increase facing the district. Given the big hike, Board of Education members said a better option might be for the district to provide the service with its own employees.

Lyndonville owns the buses, with STA providing drivers, a manager and a mechanic.

Bus drivers are in short supply. STA guarantees the district won’t be left without a driver for a bus run.

“We’ll look at every option given the cost increases,” said Ted Lewis, the BOE president. “We’ll look at all options to try to minimize the impact to taxpayers.”

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