D-60 school board agrees to pay 7-percent fee hike for school bus service next year

Posted at 9:51 AM, Apr 30, 2017
and last updated 2018-08-09 11:53:15-04

District 60 will be paying approximately $119,000 more next year for school bus services.

The district’s contract with First Student was set to expire in June. This week, the school board voted to keep the bus service for another year while district leaders explore other options.

News 5 Investigates uncovered First Student has raised transportation rates every year since 2012 for District 60. Here is a breakdown of the costs:

  • 2012-2013 school year: $1,543,139.24
  • 2013-2014 school year: $1,581,726.89
  • 2014-2015 school year: $1,621,257.39
  • 2015-2016 school year: $1,661,779.18
  • 2016-2017 school year: $1,703,301.29
  • 2017-2018 school year (new contract): Estimate: $1,822,311.29

News 5 Investigates featured First Student in a story after learning a handful their bus drivers were running red lights and getting tickets. The bus company knew about the violations, but never reported that information to the school districts they serve.

Since 2013, First Student bus drivers servicing Districts 60 and 70 got into 41 accidents. While the majority were minor, more than half were determined to be the bus driver’s fault. You can view our previous investigation here.

D-70 Superintendent Ed Smith and D-60 Superintendent Charlotte Macaluso told News 5 they will require First Student to notify them of these infractions in the future as a result of our inquiry.

D-60 also openly discussed this issue during its regular school board meeting Tuesday.

“Some of the things we are looking for from First Student are improved terms and communication of any incidents, accidents, citations or anything that would involve student safety,” D-60 Director of Facilities Management Bob Lawson told school board members. “We want to make sure they (First Student) report that information to us moving forward.”

Lawson also told the board the district contacted Student Transportation Inc. and Durham Transportation Services to inquire about costs associated with switching service providers.

“Both (bus companies) said it could take as long as four to six months for them to mobilize once they are awarded a contract,” Lawson explained.

Because the contract with First Student was set to expire in two months, Lawson told the board he and his staff believed renewing with First Student for a one-year term with a seven percent fee hike was the best course of action at this point in time.

After the one-year contract expires, Lawson said the school district can renew with First Student for another two percent fee hike for each additional year or choose to go with another provider. It’s unclear if D-60 would save any money by going with a different service provider since costs were not discussed.