Greencastle-Antrim school transportation system stays in district

Bus drivers Jackie Simmons, left, Sharon Nicarry, Bonnie Murray, Faye Byers and Steve Horst were elated with the action of the school board Thursday night. The board voted to continue to provide student transportation in-house, rather than outsource the service, based on comparative expenditures.

Approximately 60 bus drivers, parents and children attended the April 5 school board meeting to support retention of in-house transportation for the Greencastle-Antrim School District. In the end, it was the numbers that sold the panel on keeping the status quo.

At the request of the board, business manager Richard Lipella sought quotes for outsourcing the busing program. He received data from five companies for 14 routes, and two companies interested in fewer routes, for a four-year time span, since the contractors would have to buy buses. The comparison was against Greencastle's figures, including driver salaries and benefits, maintenance, and expenses related to operating a transportation system using buses from Wolfington Body Co. Inc. G-ASD typically replaced up to half its fleet with new buses each year, and 14 were to be returned to Wolfington, with the new ones delivered in July. The buy-back program was the most efficient, the board decided, after reviewing the report.

"I'm surprised, in a good way," said board member Tracy Baer.

Mike Still did not believe Lipella's numbers were correct. He contacted three contractors and Wolfington. "I was so shocked we could do it better," he said. "The numbers were almost fake to me."

He admitted everything presented to the board was accurate.

President Eric Holtzman explained, "We looked at this because of budget concerns. This shows the business office and transportation department are doing a great job."

After the 9-0 vote to stay with Wolfington, the audience applauded.

The numbers

The full runs were bid on by Bricker Transportation, E&B Transportation, McCleaf Bus Lines, Robert E. Friese and Rorher Bus Service. Over the four years the cost to the school district ranged from $2.02 to $2.8 million. In all cases, each year was more expensive than what G-ASD could do in-house, with the savings between $50,000 and $235,000 per company in the first year. Over the four years, the minimal savings was $192,000. The same pattern  held true for the smaller bids from Heck-Meyers LLC and Tom Gift III, LLC.

Board members Baer, Still, Holtzman, William Thorne, Mike Shindle, Ken Haines, Melinda Cordell, Joel Fridgen and Brian Hissong approved the 2012/2013 Bus Purchase Buy-Back program with Wolfington, at a net cost of $301,100, up from $298,600 last year.