Barrington 220 approves bus contract with a 24% increase
The Barrington Area Unit School District 220 school board approved a new bus service contract that will pay around $2.1 million more, at a total of $11.1 million, to Barrington Transportation next year, around 24 percent more than the current contract.
When the school board voted to change the district's start times last year they knew that they would have to pay their bus service contractor around $1.14 million more annually for new bus routes. What the board didn't know was that Barrington Transportation would be the only company to submit a bid, and that their bid would be so high.
Sarah Sander, the administrator of Barrington Transportation, and Jon Sander, the company's general manager and Sarah's son, attended the meeting and said their bid reflects their need to pay their bus drivers more in order to stay competitive in the marketplace.
Barrington Transportation has provided bus service to Barrington schools since before the district was formed in 1971. Sarah Sander said they expected that other companies would submit bids to the district to try to take away their streak.
"We came to the best good faith bid we could make realizing we had to stay at a level where no one would be less than us," Sarah Sander said.
While the district had some idea that Barrington Transportation's bid would be higher, several board members expressed shock at the final figure.
Board member Angela Wilcox went so far as to ask her colleagues if they'd consider canceling the upcoming start times changes now that they knew what transportation would cost.
The board did not pursue that suggestion during their nearly one-hour discussion about the contract.
After the board approved the contract, board President Brian Battle addressed the consternation that several board members expressed.
"The element of surprise between close partners creates tension," Battle said. "We'll get through the tension. ... We need to work together like we have in the past."
Battle added that the board would continue to push Barrington Transportation toward cost savings and efficiencies.
Superintendent Brian Harris said Barrington 220 wasn't the only Chicago-area school district whose transportation contract got more expensive. District staffers found that local districts who sought new transportation contracts in the last year paid between 9 percent and 35 percent more.
While the new contract is for $11.1 million, the state refunds the district around 70 percent of that. The contract is for three years with a 3 percent increase after every year. The district can opt out after every year.