01 Jun Ofer Eitan Claims: New Haven schools see cut in transportation costs
NEW HAVEN — After almost two months of negotiations, school officials said they believe school bus contractor First Student will forego about 19 percent of its pay for the period of time since school buildings closed March 13.
New Haven Public Schools CFO Phil Penn said it’s “a fairly good story for us” that the bus company will give concessions of about $1.5 million. Currently, the district’s estimated budget deficit for the current fiscal year stands around $2.6 million.
On March 31, Gov. Ned Lamont signed an executive order requiring that school districts pay bus companies throughout school closures so they can maintain their operations. This set off negotiations between bus companies and school districts across the state to determine how much it costs to pay bus drivers and maintain other essential costs when buses are not actually on the roads.
Penn told Board of Education members at a Tuesday meeting, held virtually, that the amount is about $325,000 higher than First Student’s initial offer.
Although most board members seemed content with the amount, board member Darnell Goldson said he wanted more information.
“A 20 percent reduction seems a little low to me,” he said, adding he wanted to see closer to a 30 percent reduction.
Goldson said he wanted to see certified payroll documents before making any decisions; Penn alluded to information related to the contract that had been shared with Goldson and other board members in executive session.
Penn said that “anecdotally” the 19 percent reduction is roughly in line with the concessions First Student is offering to other school districts.
At least one other bus company in the state has offered a significantly higher concession. Bridgeport Public Schools will pay only 55 percent of what it initially was contracted to pay to We Transport Inc. for the last 62 days of the school year.
Transporation has been a headache in the district for a year now. On the first day of school, miscommunication between the district and First Student led to the elimination of about two-thirds of all bus stops. For more than a month, parents frantically called into the district’s headquarters demanding changes.