Reiterating they haven't decided whether to outsource transportation or keep it in-house, Palatine Township Elementary District 15 board members Wednesday discussed bids that showed potential savings in excess of $3.3 million.
Last year, the district began exploring the possibility of privatizing busing to try and cut down costs.
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"We haven't made any decision," board member Scott Herr said. "This is just a step along the way."
Two vendors, Durham School Services and First Student, submitted bids. Assistant Superintendent Mike Adamczyk said that over a three-year contract, Durham would save District 15 about $3.3 million while First Student would save $2.3 million.
Adamczyk's analysis showed savings would come largely from salaries, medical benefits and smaller contributions to the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, Medicare/FICA and workers' compensation and vehicle insurance.
Adamczyk said he tried to do an apples-to-apples comparison, even adding GPS service to the district's future transportation budgets because the feature was included in both private companies' bids.
Many school districts are struggling to fund transportation as they compensate for the state's decreasing reimbursement rates, which in recent years have fallen from about 65 percent to 40 percent for general education students, Adamczyk said.
Meanwhile, the district, which would continue to maintain its own fleet of buses even if transportation is privatized, has established a negotiating team to work with the district's transportation union on a possible new contract. The current agreement expires in June.
Superintendent Scott Thompson said the bids are valid for six months, and that officials are negotiating "in good faith" and with the assumption that the roughly 200 bus drivers, aides, mechanics and clerical staffers will be employed by the district next fall.
No community members spoke for or against the plan Wednesday, a sharp contrast to the past two board meetings, which drew impassioned pleas from both sides of the debate.
The bid analysis came shortly after Adamczyk's latest five-year financial outlook showing the district with a $5.5 million deficit next year due to the board's decision to tackle the backlog of postponed capital projects. Deficit spending continues each year but decreases to $1.2 million by 2016-17, leaving the district with a $43 million fund balance.