Last fall, the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, Niskayuna, and Scotia-Glenville
school districts established a partnership to share bus routes to select
out-of-district locations and to study greater transportation efficiencies and
cost sharing down the road.
Fresh off of a successful pilot year, the partnership has expanded to include the Mohonasen school district and more shared routes for 2015-16.
Part of the impetus for sharing transportation services was last year's passage of a state law requiring municipalities and school districts to establish "Government Efficiency Plans" The transportation partnership was the basis for the efficiency plan the four districts filed this spring, as required by the law.
The Niskayuna Board of Education gave formal approval to the shared service agreements needed to support the plan at its June 23 meeting. The other districts school boards are also acting on the agreements in June or July.
The recently completed 2014-15 school year was the first phase of the partnership, with the three districts sharing bus runs to six out-of-district locations, including special education placements, private schools, and a BOCES Career & Technical Education campus. Because the districts are clustered relatively close geographically in comparison with the out-of-district locations, sharing the routes eliminates the repetition of neighboring districts making similar trips with partially filled buses. This results in an overall reduction of transportation costs, including for fuel, maintenance, vehicle wear and tear, and depreciation.
The six routes shared in 2014-15 saved an estimated total of $272,000 and 50,000 miles. The partners have identified a target of sharing 12 runs in 2015-16 and increasing to 16 by the following year.
The districts are also continuing to explore additional savings and efficiencies in areas such as joint driver and mechanic training and certification, shared bus inspection and maintenance facilities, sharing spare buses, and cooperative purchasing and storage of items like fuel, tires and parts.
"We are committed to providing students with safe and reliable transportation, and this pilot year demonstrated that working cooperatively with our neighbors can be part of doing just that," Niskayuna Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr. said. "This is a win for our taxpayers, while continuing a high-quality service for our students. There are even more exciting possibilities ahead as we continue to work together."
The district's 195,000 square-foot transportation facility on Hillside Avenue is situated to serve as a potential hub of sorts for the partnership, with space there to accommodate a range of joint efforts.
The 2013 purchase of that facility - which provided savings in relation to annually escalating lease costs - was part of the efficiency plan filed with the state.
Although the shared service approach means that some students attending out-of-district placements will ride on a bus that may not be operated by Niskayuna, parents should continue to direct all questions to the district's Transportation Department at 370-0160. The districts have developed communications and incident response protocols as part of their partnership.
Separate from the four-district efficiency plan, our district and Scotia-Glenville have arranged for sharing in two other areas. A supervisory position in the district's Transportation Department will be filled by sharing Scotia-Glenville's current transportation supervisor. Also, Scotia-Glenville will begin using the district's lifts for bus inspections and repairs as needed for a facilities use fee.
Niskayuna's former Interim Superintendent of Schools John Yagielski, who helped form the transportation partnership, is continuing to provide leadership for the cooperative efforts in a volunteer capacity.