Part 1: MNSD Community Budget Committee's Transportation Recommendations
Several recommendations were presented to the Marple Newtown School Board at Tuesday's Budget & Finance Committee meeting by the appointed Community Budget Committee.
NEWTOWN SQUARE–Tuesday's Marple Newtown School Board Budget & Finance Committee meeting kicked off in its new location–on the second floor of the new administration building off of Media Line Road–with a presentation of recommendations made by the school board's appointed Community Budget Committee, consisting of seven residents in the district.
The committee was formed in September and has been meeting monthly since then to review the district's budget and to analyze revenues and costs of district operations. Committee member Jim Lanzalotto urged the school board to communicate more openly with the public about the limitations they are faced with in the budget due to state mandates.
Opportunities to reduce costs and for potential revenue growth in the budget were discussed in five areas: Transportation, Facility Usage, Activity Fees, Advertising & Sponsorships, and Virtual Learning.
Marple Newtown Patch will cover the topics in a five-part series. The first topic discussed was transportation.
Facts & Figures
According to committee member Bill Doyle, transportation costs in the district is the third largest budgeted expense, making up 7 percent or approximately $3.3 million (after state subsidy).
In addition, Doyle said 4,865 students in the district are transported to 95 different schools–whether they are public or private schools in the district as well as schools outside the district for students with special needs. The average cost per vehicle per year was calculated at $12,840, according to Doyle.
There are 381 tiered routes used by the district's 83 vehicles (71 buses and 12 vans), in which Doyle stated that approximately 856,626 miles are driven each year by 106 drivers–six full-time and 100 part-time.
Some recommendations that were highlighted in this section included owning the buses and vans for several years, outsourcing the complete or partial operation or partnering with other districts.
School Board Business Administrator Joe Driscoll stated that though they haven't discussed any shared services with neighboring districts just yet, the committee has reviewed the idea of owning Marple Newtown's own fleet of buses and some of the alternative maintenance programs that may be available.
"If we owned our fleet, we don't have the garage facility to maintain them like surrounding districts do. So that's why, if we took ownership and kept the buses longer we would have to develop some sort of maintenance program that we aren't able to deliver in-house," explained Driscoll.
A discussion ensued among the board if the district were to take out busing to high schools–including all the private and academy schools.
"When I went to high school, we either walked or a senior or junior drove us and I think it's the same thing here. Can we do away with just high school busing?"
Driscoll stated that if the board were to pursue this consideration, which is possible and currently being done at Philadelphia high schools, the district would have to study the legalities. Private and Catholic schools would also be affected, if high school busing was no longer provided by the district.
In addition, according to a state mandate, the district must bus students residing in the Marple Newtown School District to schools within a 10-mile radius.
Facilities and Operations Director Mike Dumin stated that because the routes are tiered from high school to middle school and down to elementary schools, there will be some savings produced from that system.
However, Dumin stated that high school students using the bus system may turn out to be approximately a third of the total students who ride the bus in which "you won't save that much because you're still going to have a lot of buses out on the road."
"I think you could save about 10-15 percent because those buses are still all out on the road," said Dumin.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of the series, which will discuss Facility Usage.