A savings is a savings.
According to Warren County School District administration, student transportation costs are down approximately $20,000 per month this year compared to last year.
Board member Jack Werner brought up the issue of transportation expenses during December's school board meeting. "Looking back over the previous months, it appeared as though expenses are $475,000 per month (for transportation)," he said. "Does that include co-curricular, and is it possible to identify reimbursement that we would receive from the state in that regard?"
"Our transportation expense monthly is $445,000," WCSD Transportation Manager Michael Kiehl said.
That cost, he emphasized, is "to get kids to school." Kiehl noted that that amount is down approximately $20,000 per month from the previous school year.
"There are several factors in the transportation costs being down $20,000 a month this year," Kiehl explained. "The bus and van contractors that service the WCSD agreed to a complete contract freeze in their rates." The freeze was a measure used to help balance the budget for the 2012-2013 school year.
The district is also running fewer buses.
"We have reduced the number of buses and vans we operate by 15 over the last two years," Kiehl added. "We have used Edulog computer software to analyze our routes and reduce inefficiencies."
There are two areas that total cost does not cover: co-curricular travel costs and fuel.
"The district has spent $87,000 on transportation for extra-curricular trips," Kiehl said, adding that it includes sports, field trips and academic bowls among other things. "Organizations like boosters, PTO, school to work, clubs, etc. pay for the transportation charges for some of the extra-curricular trips."
"We've been averaging around $65,000 a month (for fuel)," Kiehl added.
The state reimburses some of the district's transportation costs. According to the Pennsylvania School Bus Association, elementary students more than 1.5 miles and secondary students more than 2 miles from "the nearest public highway from the school in which the pupils are enrolled...where the road or traffic conditions are such that walking constitutes a hazard to the safety of the child" are eligible for reimbursement.
Transportation for students who are involved in "special classes," as well as those who attend technical schools, is also reimbursable.
"The transportation subsidy uses vehicle, mileage, and pupil data to calculate the reimbursement," Kiehl said. "The key factors are miles with students versus miles without students, capacity and utilization of the vehicle, age of the vehicle, layover allowance and the cost index."
The Pennsylvania School Code says, "School districts shall be paid by the Commonwealth for every school year on account of pupil transportation which, and the means and contracts providing for which, have been approved by the Department of Education...an amount to be determined by multiplying the cost of approved reimbursable pupil transportation incurred by the district by the district's aid ratio."
What does that mean for the Warren County School District?
Reimbursement is "on pace to hit around 70 percent," Kiehl added.
Board vice president Donna Zariczny asked, "How does 70 percent compare to last year?"
"It's very close to the same," he said. "(It) takes quite a bit to get good movement on that number."