Education

Kickert lowers bid to maintain H-F bus contract

Kickert Bus Co. underbid its first proposed contract with District 233, retaining its long-term relationship with Homewood-Flossmoor High School.

At its May 21 board meeting, the school board gave its approval to a bid that reflects an 8.7% decrease for 2024-25 and only a 3% increase for 2025-26.  Kickert/Alpha offered an option for a third year to the contract.

Kickert Bus Co. and Alpha School Bus Co. are operated by Cook-Illinois Corp. Kickert provides transportation needs at H-F. Alpha deals with H-F’s special education needs.

Kickert has been serving H-F transportation needs for years. It was hit hard by the pandemic when schools shut down. District 233 provided 37% of its annual contract revenue to help keep the bus company afloat. 

When schools reopened, Kickert was short-staffed after many drivers quit or retired. To try and raise staffing levels, Kickert raised its wages. In 2022, District 233 awarded the company a 12.5% increase in costs, and in 2023, the contract got a 10% bump.

When Kickert this year proposed a 7% increase in year one and a 5.5% increase in year two, Steve Anderson, the board’s Finance Committee chair, advised the board to reject the bid arguing it went above the 3.5% Consumer Price Index increase.  He pointed out District 233 has done much to help Kickert, but it was only in the last year that service complaints dropped.

Kickert representatives said the bus company is fully staffed now and has been able to cover all routes with regular and substitute drivers. It will be negotiating with its union in 2025. Drivers now earn $24 an hour.

Anderson advised Kickert to reconsider its bid. Kickert came back with a proposed 6.25% for a one-year contract, but that too was rejected, and the board asked the business office to go out for bids.

Only two companies presented bids – Safeway Transportation Service Co. of Elk Grove Village and Kickert based on Lynwood. 

Safeway presented a bid of $1.42 million in the first year, which meant no increase over the 2024-25 budgeted costs, and a 3.9% increase or $1.75 million in year two.

Kickert’s bid of $1.256 million reflected an 11.6% decrease from the projected yearly expense of $1.42 million. The second year of the contract reflects a 3% increase to $1.292 million which “is still lower than what we’re projecting,” said Lawrence Cook, chief school business official.

For special education bus service, District 233 budgeted $1.9 million for 2024-25. Safeway bid $1.9 million and showed a 2.8% increase in the second year to $1.975 million.

Kickert’s special education bid shows an 8.7% decrease from budgeted expenses down to $1.75 million and a second year increase of 3% increasing costs to $1.8 million. 

Board members were happy with the bid process noting they were saving the district money.

“I’m glad we made the extra effort,” Anderson said, while acknowledging “It’s a valuable relationship we have with Kickert.”

Cook said the test will come next school year. He hopes Kickert can continue to maintain the level of service, despite earning less revenue for H-F transportation.

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