MUSCATINE — Superintendent Jerry Riibe told the Muscatine Board of Education that based on the proposals he received, he would not be recommending that the district explore a multi-district transportation agreement any further.
In January, the district put out a request for proposal for an exploratory study that would look at the feasibility of contracting out the transportation services for Muscatine, Louisa-Muscatine and Columbus Community School Districts.
“We wanted to see if there was a significant savings,” Riibe said. “We felt like we owed it to the taxpayers in the district to explore — but it just wasn't there.”
Riibe said the district needed to see between 15 and 20 percent in savings to make it “worthwhile” for the district, but the proposal he received from First Student and Durham School Services just did not meet expectations.
“The RFP maintained that the school district would maintain ownership of the buses and the company would provide drivers and maintenance for busing services,” Riibe said. “Their bids came in and we took a look at those and there just wasn’t enough savings to warrant a change. At best we were looking at 5 percent or less,” Riibe said. “I didn’t feel like it was in the best interest of the district to make a change over what could be very little difference on savings.”
Since the contractor would be absorbing mostly personnel costs, Riibe said he was not surprised to find that the provider couldn’t find significant savings compared to the district.
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“That’s probably to be expected,” Riibe said. “The only place you are going to see savings is personnel costs and personnel cost really aren't going to be significantly less than ours.”
According to Riibe, the district has identified that it wants to reduce its budget by about $500,000. The district estimated that the early retirement program the district offered to employees this year will save the district between $250,000 and $260,000. Looking to bus transportation for efficiencies is one part of looking for the remaining quarter million dollars.
The Board of Education could opt to continue exploring contracting out the buses.
“You never know so you want to explore every option when you are trying to trim a budget,” Riibe said. “My task is to get information and then make a recommendation to the board. They can make their decision if they want to pursue that further.”
As budget season approaches, Riibe said the district will have to go through line items looking to make up the rest they need to trim.
“The budget is large enough that we can find those and not have to reduce any staff or really affect any programs substantially,” Riibe said. “We certainly have projects that we are pursuing to make sure we keep those district facilities up and running like they are supposed to be.”