School Board Approves $13.6M Contract For Special Education Busing
VANESSA DE LA TORRE
June 23, 2011
HARTFORD —— After months of negotiations and a round of bidding, the school board has approved a new $13.6 million contract with LogistiCare Solutions, a bus broker that currently subcontracts the city's special education transportation.
The deal covers the estimated cost to bus 1,772 city students with special needs, including 377 who attend schools out-of-district, next fiscal year. It also factors in what Superintendent Steven Adamowski called a "reasonable" living wage increase for bus drivers and monitors.
The current five-year contract with the Atlanta-based company expires July 31 and included annual cost increases of 5 percent, said Willie Mae Moses, the schools' executive director of transportation.
The latest agreement will last three years. After the first year at $13.6 million, which is $1.6 million less than this year, there will be 3 percent increases in the second and third years, school officials said.
Adamowski had suggested earlier this year freezing bus drivers' and monitors' wages as one way to help trim $1.6 million from transportation costs in the 2011-12 education budget. That would have required asking the city council to suspend the city's living wage ordinance, a proposal that drew scorn from the union and resistance from council members.
Unionized drivers and monitors also opposed the prospect of extending the special education contract with LogistiCare without an open bid. The union, CSEA-SEIU Local 2001, charged that LogistiCare had contracted with local bus companies that were trying to skirt the living wage ordinance.
Working with the city, the school system put the contract out to bid in April.
The new agreement with LogistiCare, the lowest bidder, appears to have eased the union's concerns. Union spokesman Matt O'Connor said Thursday that there is now "labor peace" and "we're looking forward to a new relationship working with LogistiCare and its subcontractors."
The board approved the contract unanimously Tuesday. School officials, however, cautioned that the $13.6 million figure is a "moving target" that can be affected — for better or worse — by a fluctuating student population and the living wage.
The wage is determined by a complicated formula that can boost increases significantly from year to year. Adamowski said he believed a "reasonable" increase should be "2 to 3 percent."
Overall, the school system has budgeted $21.7 million to transport city students in the 2011-12 year.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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