Several school districts in Belmont County are trying to save money by looking at bus maintenance.
They asked for Ohio Auditor of Sate Dave Yost’s office to help with a first-of-its kind study, that was presented to the districts on Tuesday night at the Bellaire Board of Education building.
“This was not and I want to emphasize this point, this was not an effort to consolidate transportation systems among districts. It never was that,” said Darren Jenkins, Superintendent of Bellaire Schools.
These districts want to make it very clear that this study was not about consolidating bus routes, instead it’s about finding ways to save money.
The feasibility study presented several scenarios where districts can do that, by sharing services with one another.
According to the State Auditor’s Office, bus ridership is down 33.8% since the 2013-2014 school year, and ridership per bus is down 14.5%.
“Expenses are going up and revenues are going down,” said Scott Anderson, Director of the Ohio Performance Team within the Ohio Auditor of State’s Office, which researched the study. “They’re having to do a lot more with less and this is a good way to come together and get economies of scale and with that they they basically gain efficiencies and do more with the taxpayer dollar.
The study was requested by Bellaire Local, Bridgeport Exempted Village, Shadyside Local and St. Clairsville-Richland City School Districts with support from Muskingum Valley and East Central Ohio Educational Service Centers.
School representatives in attendance said they were pleased with the findings.
“It it gave some alternatives that we didn’t even look at for the fact that we were our own separate entities,” said John Haswell, Superintendent of Shadyside Schools. “This allows us to just take a look and see if it wins for Shadyside and wins for Bellaire and saves money, that’s something that can definitely be done.”
Those findings have different benefits depending on the scenario, which in addition to monetary savings include job security for maintenance staff, reducing spare bus fleets and avoiding the replacement of old garages.
“The point of 13 years, the cost of maintenance on a bus goes up significantly, so one of that things we’re going to do with that is try to create a system whereby we can turn buses over before that time comes,” Jenkins said.
The study also recommended that each districts improve data collection on a daily basis, which will make it easier when leadership sits down with one another to make a decision on whether or not to implement these suggestions.
That decision though will take more time and consideration.
“There’s no reason why we don’t take a look at it, however it’s going to take a lot of time to sit down and look and say ‘is this feasible, is this feasible’,” Haswell said.
We will continue to follow this issue and let you know if and when the districts make any changes.
To read the study and its benefits for the district, visit the Ohio Auditor of State’s website.