School Board’s Bus Privatization Hits Roadblock
The school board, which voted earlier this month to find a private contractor to run its student transport system, has hit a roadblock.
Purchasing Director Dwain Raney pointed out to trustees of the Orange Unified School Board, after they voted to privatize the bus system, that the bid requests they had sent to potential contractors failed to ask such essential questions as how much field trips would cost.
“I’d hate to see Mr. Raney come back in January and tell us how much this will cost us instead of how much this will save us,” Trustee Rick Ledesma said at Tuesday’s board meeting. “I just feel we are trying to patch something that has a lot of holes in it.”
Superintendent Robert L. French recommended the board reject all bids, compile a more specific bid request and start all over.
But the trustees voted against that option, 4 to 3, then voted against accepting the lowest bid, also by 4 to 3. Finally, Trustee Bill Lewis proposed analyzing the bids further, rather than taking immediate action. That motion passed by 4 to 3.
Raney said two contractors who submitted bids are willing to negotiate supplemental agreements to the original package.
Finance officials have estimated that maintaining and operating the district’s school buses, many of which need extensive repairs, will cost $600,000 to $1 million more than what the district had budgeted for transportation this year. That led to the decision to privatize the system.
But Raney said Tuesday that hiring a contractor would probably save only about $200,000. And other officials who examined the district’s labor contracts found that the union representing the 71 drivers who would face layoffs have the right to challenge the decision to hire an independent contractor.
Trustees said they will review the situation in January.