Flossmoor District 161 is looking for a new school bus company after its transportation provider, Positive Connections, opted out of the current three-year contract.
Superintendent Craig Doster said he believes that District 161 will realize “substantial savings” by searching for a new bus company in a competitive bidding climate.
Five bus companies recently provided the district with bids for a three-year transportation contract.
Those bids were rejected at the March 14 board of education meeting. District 161 is advertising for new bids, which are to be submitted by April 4.
Positive Connections announced in January that it would be terminating its contract with District 161 at the end of the current school year. School board members approved the three-year pact in March 2015. Under the existing contract, Positive Connections was scheduled to receive $1,078,350 in the 2016-17 academic year.
In its Jan. 15 letter, the bus company did not give any reason for not renewing the contract. However, it appears that Positive Connections might not have been able to provide services at the rate that was negotiated last year. The company submitted one of the bids that the board rejected Monday – at $1,396,500 it was the highest of the five proposals for the new transportation contract.
Doster said Thursday he was prepared to recommend approval of the bus contract at the March 14 meeting. Cook-Illinois/Paige Bus submitted the lowest proposal, at $1,052,733, for the 2016-17 year. However, the proposals were rejected because Doster wanted to make sure there was no misunderstanding over one aspect of the bid specifications – the “pairing” of a single bus and driver on two routes, one for elementary children and the other for junior high students.
In the past, school bus companies have generally factored in the daily cost for each route regardless of pairing. For example, the current Positive Connections per-day cost is $193 for each route. That’s the amount that District 161 pays the company for each elementary or junior high route, even if the same bus and driver are used.
Following Monday’s bid rejection, the district is sending out bus contract specifications that also allow companies to offer proposals for paired routes. Doster said that in a competitive bidding environment, companies may wish to submit proposals for paired routes for the same bus and driver that are lower than considering them solely as separate runs for elementary and junior high students.
District 161 currently has 31 routes for regular education elementary and junior high students. Of those, 28 are paired routes.
Last year, school officials said the State of Illinois reimburses District 161 about $500,000 for transportation costs, with the rest coming from local property taxes.
In a cost-cutting move last May, District 161 trimmed six elementary bus routes. The cuts were designed to save the district about $200,000 a year.