Thursday, September 8, 2011

Erie County costs, New York State costs, busing disabled preschoolers, New York State mandate

[The New York State mandated program of busing less than 1,000 disabled preschoolers costs $8,800,000 per year.
The busing service costs $68.40 per preschooler per day.
NYS pays $5,280,000 per year for a daily cost of $41.04 per pupil.
Erie County pays $3,520,000 per year for a daily cost of $27.36 per pupil.]

The new school year began this week with Carrier Coach again shuttling nearly 1,000 of Erie County's preschool children to special programs...
Its annual payment from Erie County will rise by about $2 million — to nearly $9 million — for a pact expected to last three years.
State government mandates that counties deliver disabled and early-intervention children to preschool programs year-round, with most rides occurring during the academic year. The state forces county governments to pick up 40 percent of the cost, even though counties play no role in public or private education.
Starting in 2004, Erie County turned to both Carrier Coach and First Student to provide the service under a joint venture. First Student transported the children in the Buffalo metropolitan area, and Carrier gave rides to children in outlying regions.
In 2010, First Student said it would not seek a second three-year extension, as the agreement provided. The allowance of $53.60 a child each day, plus add-ons for various reasons, was too small, given the contract's vagaries. For example, the bus companies received no allowance for children who did not attend school on a given day, even though they still drove the route.
In short order, Carrier Coach began to wheeze as well. [Carrier Coach President Allen] Miller said he had invested about $5 million in resources and personnel for the Erie County contract. Under the existing rates, he said, Carrier was losing around $20,000 a week during the school year transporting children countywide.
He said that in June of this year he asked the county to raise the rate or do something about the midday runs that were bleeding Carrier Coach. If the preschool programs would slightly adjust their starting and ending times, he could devote fewer buses to the midday trips, save money and continue to provide the service.
But the change would have imposed a new set of problems for preschool administrators. When they balked, Miller told Erie County in July that his company would not continue the service past September.
The new deal gives Carrier a daily allowance of $68.40 a child, with no add-ons unless negotiated for unforeseen circumstances.
Corcoran [purchasing director for County Executive Chris Collins] said she expects the new deal to cost $8.8 million in 2012, its first full year of implementation. The transport of disabled children had cost $6.8 million in 2010, the last year for which year-end figures are available.
The new one-year deal allows for two one-year extensions, "unless we mess things up," Miller said.
No company, given the investment required, wants just a one-year deal, he said.

-Excerpt from 9/8/2011 Buffalo News article by Matthew Spina