Niskayuna school district signs outsourcing deal for bus transportation
NISKAYUNA One key component of the Niskayuna Central School District’s second budget approved in June went forward Tuesday night, while another has so far fallen through.
The Board of Education voted Tuesday night to approve a contract with Ohio-based First Student to outsource bus transportation for the district.
That move is expected to save $200,000 this school year, district officials have said. But it is also a move the union representing the district’s current bus drivers is set to appeal to the Public Employment Relations Board.
A notice of intent to appeal was filed in June, but the appeal itself was expected to come once the contract was signed.
The board approved the contract by a vote of 5-2, with board members Patricia Lanotte and Barbara Mauro voting against.
The other budget component was rental income for unused space in the district’s bus garage. District officials had said they were in talks with an unnamed company to rent the space and were certain enough to include the $100,000 in rental income in the budget.
However, Matthew Bourgeois, assistant superintendent for business, told the board the deal has fallen through. The company the district was talking with has since moved into Schenectady, renting space from the city at a much lower rate, Bourgeois said.
“They had a better opportunity and decided to pursue that,” he said. “And that was really quite a shock, really quite a surprise. We didn’t expect that to happen.”
Efforts are continuing to fill the space, Bourgeois said, with a meeting set later this month with county development officials to tour the facility and try to find a tenant.
Even without a tenant, though, Bourgeois said the district has found enough to cover half the lost revenue. That is to come through the First Student transportation contract.
The district will bill the company for use of the facilities, making the district eligible for about $54,000 in extra state transportation aid, he said.
Regarding the transportation contract, only the two newest board members explained their votes. Lanotte said she was voting against because she just didn’t have enough information on how the numbers worked to vote the other way.
The other new board member, Kevin Laurilliard, voted in favor, noting that the start of school is soon. Joining him in voting for the contract were Deb Oriola, Debbie Gordon, John Buhrmaster and Robert Winchester.
The plan to outsource bus drivers was part of the district’s second budget proposal, approved by voters in June, after they defeated a larger budget in May.
In response to the defeat, the board proposed a combination of $900,000 in spending cuts and new revenue, which limited the tax increase to 3.95 percent.
As of late June, 45 of the district’s 57 part-time drivers had signed up to work for First Student. The deadline to sign up was July 10.