School, BOCES look to share services

MAYFIELD — The Mayfield Central School District is working on a proposal with HFM BOCES to increase efficiency and decrease costs by sharing student transportation services.

The Mayfield Board of Education will consider the combined services at the July 11 board meeting based on potential savings from including the district’s busing under BOCES. BOCES already oversees Johnstown and Gloversville schools’ transportation.

“The advantage of the sharing would include addressing bus driver shortage, supervision, and administration of [Department of Transportation] regulations,” said Mayfield Superintendent Jon Peterson.

“Additionally, the district anticipates a financial savings. Essential to the shared service, current district transportation employees become HFM BOCES employees, the district retains the buses and bus maintenance operates from our facility.”

None of the cost savings “have been hammered out yet,” said Mayfield communications spokesman Robert Hanlon. “Nothing is really in concrete until we start the school year.”

“The biggest cost savings,” Hanlon said, “is that we don’t have to hire a transportation director”—a cost Hanlon estimates at about $100,000 or so in salary and benefits. BOCES would handle that role.

Once enrollments are in and the school year begins, the three districts would have a better idea how they can save on bus drivers and consolidating routes to BOCES programs, private schools and any other activities, he said.

BOCES Superintendent Patrick Michel addressed members of the transportation department on June 28, to inform them of what the shared service would mean for them, answer their questions and address their concerns.

The HFM Regional Transportation Service was created in 2012 when BOCES partnered with the Gloversville and Johnstown school districts to provide general and special purpose transportation for students.

“The Regional Transportation Service has proven to be a cost effective and efficient partnership,” said Michel. “Bringing Mayfield into the service would be beneficial for all the schools involved.”

BOCES and Mayfield officials have met during the last several months to explore the feasibility of merging their services. Mayfield employees would become Regional Transportation employees alongside the former Gloversville and Johnstown drivers, aides, secretaries and maintenance workers. Currently, Mayfield has about 20 transportation employees, all of whom would be included in the proposal. The Mayfield employees would all be “held harmless,” meaning their pay and benefits would remain the same until a new collective bargaining agreement is voted on.

If approved by the Mayfield board, the sharing of transportation services could begin in the fall. During the first year, bus routes are not expected to be changed, and parents will be informed if the partnership moves forward.

Because of the projected savings, Mayfield will incur no added cost to enter the partnership, and the district would maintain ownership of its bus fleet and maintenance facility, Peterson said. During the short and long term, the partnership would result in efficiencies in the areas of employee recruitment, purchasing, training and more. Mayfield also does not currently have a dedicated transportation director or dispatcher, but would have the services of both under the partnership.

“Transportation is one of the critical connections between students and our schools. By sharing services, we help ensure safe transportation for our children, without sacrificing educational programs,” Michel said.

If Mayfield agrees to affiliate with BOCES, at least 75 percent of its payment to BOCES would be offset by state aid, Hanlon said. And the district’s agreement with BOCES would be renewable yearly—allowing the Mayfield board to assess the results during the 2017-18 school year, he said.

Hanlon said school district are in a tight squeeze because their money comes only in three ways: tax levy subject to state caps on tax levies, state aid and cutting costs. “The governor has been encouraging consolidation by public entities,” he said.

“If you can cut costs, that’s like money in the bank.”

By Patricia Older

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