Tuesday, May 25, 2010

If It Seems too Good to Be True...

It probably is.

At least, that's the saying.
In the beginning, I was excited about the possible transportation consolidation, and I wrote this.
A few weeks later, I had a few concerns, and I wrote this.
But after reading a little bit more, I've come to the conclusion that this plan is ill-conceived and--if implemented for the fall--will likely be a big. fat. mess.
So--what made me change my mind?

1. Savings Oversold
Well, it turns out that there are some (read: limited) savings from saving on "deadhead miles" and combined gas purchasing, but the bulk of the savings are coming from staff--and not, primarily, from fewer staff--but primarily from paying staff an average of 17% less. There is no guarantee that current drivers will get jobs, either.
When I wrote about the custodians, I posited that there is a moral imperative, not just an economic imperative, to fairness. David Bates, the Ypsilanti school board president, noted in school board's discussion yesterday that the teachers and administrators were ("only") asked to take 5% pay cuts. In Ann Arbor, the custodians and maintenance staff just took what approximates a 10% pay cut. So--17%? That seems a bit much.
In that vein, I appreciate the Ypsilanti school board's decision to table the decision.
In fact, with the new retirement program that the state legislature just enacted, workers who are re-hired will (I believe) have a different retirement program than the one they were in, with reduced benefits. So that's another sock-it-to-the-worker problem.

According to the article
The consultant working with the WISD said that the proposed wage scale was developed after examining compensation for other counties' transportation departments.
Oh yeah? Which counties? The Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti area is one of the most expensive housing markets in the Midwest. I believe it is only second to Chicago. Let's pay people a living wage.

2. Cooperation and Coordination are alternatives to Consolidation
I think that some of the savings (like combined gas purchasing) could probably be achieved through cooperation and coordination, rather than consolidation. Do we need to consolidate to coordinate special education transportation? I don't see why.

3. Timeline is too Short
At this point, the Washtenaw Intermediate School District is saying that they need at least five of the districts to go in on the plan, and if Ann Arbor is not one of the five, that would be big trouble. And yet--to date--the only one to sign on is Willow Run. So here we are.  June is around the corner. And it seems to me that there is no way that laying off all of the local drivers and aides, and having a new entity hire them, and redesigning routes can possibly happen in a smooth and coordinated fashion in the next 2+ months. I don't care what promises the WISD wants to give about that, I will not believe it. Nor should you.

4. Transparency
There's one other thing, too. We're back to that transparency thing again. When I went to the AAPS budget meeting where they discussed transportation, I think I was sold a bill of goods. This is what I wrote at the time:
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).
My nagging question, in that post, was "If it's not too good to be true, why didn't we do this five years ago?" And now I have my answer: It is too good to be true. 

Let's Try Again for Consolidation
Let's use a more realistic timeline. (January? Next September? ) Let's bring the transportation unions to the table. Let's use a reasonable amount of pay rollbacks (5-10%?).

In the meantime, let's try cooperation and coordination to save on gas and deadhead miles.

No comments:

Post a Comment