CLARKS SUMMIT — Abington Heights Superintendent of Schools Michael Mahon recommended members of the school board accept a proposal submitted by Rohrer Bus of Duncannon to execute all of the school’s regular bus routes for three years, starting with the 2016-17 school year during a meeting on Feb. 17.
“After a very careful analysis, administration has come to the view that awarding all routes to the lowest cost contractor will result in a net savings of approximately $114,000 annually to the district over the three years of the contract,” Mahon said. “Rohrer, the lowest cost contractor, has agreed to run all of our routes at the state reimbursement formula rate for the full three-year term.
“Bus transportation in Pennsylvania is one of the few remaining functions that is reimbursed in a manner associated with actual cost,” Mahon added. “The formula is reimbursed using variables such as the age of the bus, number of students rostered on the bus and the length of the run.”
According to Mahon, Abington Heights currently contracts its bus routes to six vendors and contracts for individual routes were previously negotiated each year by administration.
“While we have renegotiated very reasonable or no increases, we have not, for years, looked at if our overall cost was reflective of the market rate,” Mahon said. “Administration intends to reduce Rohrer’s proposal into contracts for each individual routes and the final contracts will be presented to the board for approval at a future meeting.”
John Buranich, of Buranich Enterprises Inc. of Clarks Summit, one of the district’s current contractors, asked the board to consider the implication the decision will have on local folks should they decide to go with a single contractor.
“If the board decides to go with Rohrer, they are going to be putting contractors out of business that have been here for 50 years or more,” he said. “The contractors have been working for the school district and catering to the school district. You get the big guy in and the school is going to be catering to them. If they’re qualified, I think local people should have the work.”
Both Mahon and members of the school board agreed the local contractors have provided great services over the years, but the potential savings are substantial.
“The bottom line is although we wanted everyone to continue to keep their work, there was a very significant savings going with all runs at formula,” Mahon said. “We’re facing other problems in the district including staff cuts, increasing class sizes, the elimination of programs and discussions about raising taxes. The reality is we’re struggling for our survival.”
Vice President Louise Brzuchalski added the members of the board have been pleased with the bus services and prefer to keep the business in the area.
“The board has been struggling with this (decision) ever since it’s been brought up,” Brzuchalski said. “We completely sympathize with the situation. This is in no way on easy decision, or even a done decision. It’s good to deal with local people and we do appreciate your service and the impact (the decision) will have on every one of you.”
Mahon also believes going with a single contractor will help the district make its routes more efficient.
“We eliminated a route in advance of this process,” Mahon said. “When dealing with a single vendor, it’s easier to achieve efficiencies than with multiple vendors and routes.”
Members of the Abington Heights School Board will hold a work session meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 2 at Abington Heights Middle School.
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.