Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Heads, You Win: Transportation and Consolidation

Last night, at the AAPS budget meeting, I went to a transportation breakout session. According to what I heard, the administration set a budget target of savings from transportation costs of approximately $1.5 million dollars. The privatization bids netted about $800,000 in savings. AAPS then tried negotiating with the transportation workers, who met the $800,000 savings in a tentative agreement--but the union membership voted the tentative agreement down.

Enter Option 2: Consolidate all transportation services countywide through the WISD. Drivers and aides keep their benefits--including retirement, because they will still be public employees--and the savings are still expected to exceed the $1.5 million dollars. The main savings will come from things like buying gasoline in bulk, buying parts in bulk, routing efficiencies, etcetera. There are still a lot of details to be worked out, and my guess is that eventually there will be some cuts in staffing among mechanics and administrators (although that was not clearly said). Right now, it looks like several districts are "in" (enough to make it a go--mostly from the eastern side of the county at this point) and that it will at least partially start up in the fall. The WISD has hired an "expert" consultant to iron out the details.

So that sounds good, right? I'm just left with a nagging question:

If it's not too good to be true, why didn't we do this five years ago? Think of all the millions we could have saved.
Or else--
It is too good to be true, and the savings will not be anywhere near the projections.

I guess time will tell. I'm glad the bus drivers will have their jobs, with retirement benefits.


  1. Well, I doubt that it is too good to be true, at least in the main. As to why it hasn't been done before, part of that is the relative cost (in money and time) of disrupting a system which was not in dire trouble at the time. Sometimes major change doesn't really make sense unless the alternative is much worse. Otherwise, you end up churning your organization all the time, a solution that did not do wonders for the private sector back in the nineties.

  2. Actually, consolidation was presented to us (bus drivers and union reps) as option #1. It made little sense to take more than a 10% wage/benefit cut to compete with privatization when consolidation was the favored path, and when the district had put huge resources into developing the ISD plan.

    As for that plan, it's not true that most of the savings would come from "operational efficiencies." The projected savings is $4.25 million of which 15% results from operational efficiencies; 85% is reduced wages and benefits. That means that districts would be spending 3% less per year on things like fuel, routing, mileage, etc. They'd be spending about 20% less on wages and bennies. I'm using Robert Allen and the ISD's numbers here, FYI (available on the ISD's web site). So much for the exaggerated "economies of scale" idea.

    It' shard to tell who is "in". In Willow Run one BOE trustee quit over this issue. And on Wednesday, May 12, AA was scheduled to vote on the issue but abruptly cancelled that vote, without explanation.

    I wish I knew more about what was going on behind closed doors.

  3. Me too Chai! I would like to know more about what is going on behind closed doors. I think we all would. At this point, the WISD doesn't even post their full board minutes on their web site, although they say they are going to soon.
    And in addition, when I wrote this, I didn't understand (because it was NOT explained at the meeting I was at) that all staff will need to reapply for positions and that nobody is guaranteed the positions.