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Save Money And Give Better Service? Nah, Who Wants That?!

A discussion about the bus fleets of Central Regional and Berkeley Schools

The recent public flap about merging the bus fleets of the Central Regional and Berkeley Township School districts just makes me shake my head, again, at the silliness of local politics.

Why would we want to save our taxpayers potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars and provide our parents with better, more efficient services?

Okay, disclaimer time, before I get in trouble. In case you don't know, I am in my second term as a member of the Central Regional School Board. I must make it clear I am NOT speaking on behalf of our board or district, only our Superintendent and Board President speak officially for our district; any comments or opinions here are my own.

Now back to the buses. Simply put folks, it really is a no-brainer. There is potential for very significant savings and we could greatly, in my opinion, improve services. And the math is not that hard.

A quick comparison to the Lacey district, which is K -12 and has about the same number of students as our two combined, has about 40 buses in its fleet. And believe it or not, their kids get to school every day, the athletes get to every game, the classes make it every field trip destination. Our two districts have about 70. Each bus costs about $80,000 and last for about 15 years. Eventually, 30 fewer buses mean about $2.4 million less sitting in a parking lot.

I don't know who got our bus drivers at the Berkeley district all riled up about losing jobs. But I can tell you for a fact layoffs have NEVER BEEN DISCUSSED in any of the meetings and discussions of this topic that I have attended.

Eventually, staffs would and could be reduced through normal attrition. In fact, if you just check the signs you can see that both districts are almost always in need of extra drivers. If you don't believe that, then you elected the wrong guy.

Of course I am sure everyone's favorite anonymous poster will be spouting about how we should just fire them all, but I know that is not the way I think, nor do my colleagues when we talk about cost savings. Our employees are our friends and neighbors, they have families and need their jobs. It is always, ALWAYS a last resort when we have layoffs of any type. Again if you don't believe me, you elected the wrong guy.

As for better service, have you ever been on your way to work when the buses are out? Ever got behind both a Berkeley and CR bus? It can take you what seems like an hour to get to the parkway if you hit the road at the wrong time.

But the real advantage would be for our elementary school K-4 kids. They could all go to school at the same time and get home at a decent hour. In particular, the Potter School kids would get a much better schedule. We are always hearing complaints at Little League about how little time parents have to get homework, dinner and sports/activities done for those kids.

We at CR have also had great success in cutting costs by improving our route efficiencies and and entering into jointures with other districts, We feel there is potential for more revenue generating work if we combined fleets - giving drivers a chance to actually increase their income while bringing need revenue to our districts.

The fact of the matter is that this has been discussed for many years internally. For whatever reason (I know most of them, but will protect the guilty) we have not even been able to agree to even do a detailed study of the proposal.

And now we get to the real problem. We have way too many people more worried about 'protecting' their turf (jobs, controls, policy) than just doing the right thing and getting the job done. I am often asked when we will merge our districts. My answer is "when our school boards want to". Merging of the bus fleets would be perfect opportunity to test the waters and address the challenges. As you can see from this silly grandstanding, that is not the case.

Remember, in this country we get the government we deserve. This is YOUR fault - you put us here.

Okay Chief, have at it.

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Dolores February 01, 2013 at 02:18 PM
I agree 100%. This should be a no brainer, apparently with politics common sense and practicality does not apply. The Rittacco Era in Toms River should have taught a lesson, hopefully we won't be that bad! Come on people pay attention and do what is right for our town and our students!
Robert Everett February 01, 2013 at 06:22 PM
and our favorite curmudgeon has arrived. Funny how we never see you at a meeting.
voice of reason February 04, 2013 at 06:29 PM
Wow Central and Berkeley board members both agree this is a good idea let me take a deep breath of this fresh air keep up the good work
Bville February 06, 2013 at 02:06 PM
If you only need 35 drivers per day then what will the other 30-35 drivers be doing? Layoffs aren't a reality with this design? I am not against looking at the proposal but to say layoffs have never been discussed means that the plan has not been truly evaluated.
Robert Everett February 07, 2013 at 11:30 AM
You are correct, eventually staffing would be lowered, but we are short staffed now. We anticipate we can do this through normal attrition, based on historic turnovers. At CR, our transportation department has been able to generate savings and revenue for the district by taking on 'jointures' with other districts, in fact we have turned down several opportunities. CR drivers are also paid per 'run', not per hour - so its not like they are getting compensated for doing nothing. It's can be easy to say 'just cut' jobs; it's a lot harder to do - particularly when you need some cooperation while making changes. There are many opposed to this idea, simply because they fear it would not serve thier self interests; and they are using the 'you will all lose your jobs' as a scare tactic. Bottom line is this should be looked at closely, and to date THAT can not even be agreed upon. Shame on us! I have received a great deal of positive feed back on this post privately, and will do a follow up soon - by then everyone that is mad at me should be ready to get riled up again. ;-)

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