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Transportation by the numbers

MANLIUS — The Bureau Valley School District’s transportation system provides the best service for the students and the best return for the taxpayers’ dollars.

That was the message delivered at Monday’s school board meeting by Transportation Coordinator Tom Mott.

Mott said the first priority was obviously student safety. However, costs and budgetary concerns are also extremely important.

The district is huge — the eighth largest district in the state — covering 340 square miles in five communities. In addition, students can be transported as far as 60 miles outside of the district for various reasons.

Mott said his drivers work almost around the clock, with regular bus routes beginning at 6 a.m., and sometimes bringing students home from sporting events as late as midnight.

Mott said questions have been raised about the need for two mechanics on staff, but he said they are a benefit for the district.

When a bus breaks down, there is always a mechanic available to go look at it. In addition, shop safety requires two people on hand for such activities as putting a bus up on jacks and welding.

Mott said the district spent $137,125 on maintenance expenses last year. The biggest expense was salaries and insurance at $85,000, followed by $34,000 for supplies and $10,000 for tires.

The district has 34 busses, and they travelled 463,696 miles last year. Dividing that by the maintenance expenses results in a figure of 29 cents per mile.

Mott said another benefit that perhaps can’t have a dollar figure easily attached is the added value to the busses for always having proper daily maintenance performed.

Mott then compared the cost of maintaining Bureau Valley’s busses in-house with a typical five-year contract from a service provider. Adding all the projected expenses, the provider would charge $9,757.69 per bus during a five-year period. BV mechanics are able to maintain the same bus for $4,560.18, or less than half.

Mott then turned to other school districts.

The Ottawa school district is similar to Bureau Valley’s, with 33 busses traveling 440,000 miles. Mott said Ottawa’s maintenance expense is $202,980, or 46 cents per mile compared to Bureau Valley’s 29 cents per mile.

He then turned to the Princeton High School district, which outsources its maintenance work. Princeton has 11 busses traveling 87,829 miles. The total maintenance cost is $72,688, for a per mile cost of 82 cents.

The Bureau Valley mechanics are also responsible for maintaining the district’s seven vehicles and other equipment such as lawn mowers.

Board member Don DeWaele said he has been asked about the two mechanics, and appreciated having concrete numbers about their benefit to the district.

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