Seven-year deal with Kobussen
By Ben Rodgers
The Manawa School District agreed to outsource its bussing operation at a special school board meeting on Thursday, June 22.
The unanimous agreement was for a seven-year deal with Kobussen Buses Ltd., starting on July 1, the start of the fiscal year, with the option to buy back the bus fleet in a year.
The decision to vote on this before next month’s regularly scheduled meeting will allow the district to sell off its current bus fleet, which will help with state aid formulations, according to Carmen O’Brien, business manager.
“We could sell the buses in July or in August or wait for years but then that’s going to negatively affect our state aid,” O’Brien said.
The district has had energy efficiency projects done to the buildings. The projects were done under a special deal offered through the state that allows the district to exceed the revenue cap.
Essentially the district needs to spend money in order to receive money from the state, O’Brien said.
With the energy efficiency projects, one of which was carried over from the previous year, the district spent roughly $700,000, she said.
With the decrease in state aid Manawa taxpayers would have a year with decreased property taxes, only to see them rise the following year.
“We really don’t want to affect our taxpayers by having the levy go down and having it go back up again,” O’Brien said. “Those changes in the levy are not good for anyone.”
She also cited a number of other reasons the change would be beneficial to the district. Some include more training for drivers and better documented and readily available maintenance records.
She also said if the district were to get to the point where she would be comfortable, without contracting with an outside provider, that the district will likely need to hire a transportation director for roughly $65,000 a year to handle these issues and more.
With the district handling bussing operations O’Brien said she felt there was a liability issue as well.
“If there was an accident we could be sued and I’m not sure we could come out on the right side of that,” she said.
One parent in attendance said she was all for more safety on the buses.
“As a parent I totally understand you want the togetherness and all that, but as a parent my first thing is safety,” said Stephanie Riske. “I understand it’s a change and it’s hard, but they can offer so much more safety for our kids.”
Kobussen also offered to open up an operations center in Manawa with a full-time mechanic to ensure the buses are maintained on a regular schedule.
“If we’re taking over the contract we’re looking at leasing or buying a facility in town here and staffing it,” said Joe Kobussen, president of Kobussen Buses Ltd.
Drivers in attendance did express concerns about sick days, district cell phones and pay for extra work.
But Kobussen offered to match what the employees were making, plus offer more money for extra trips, a $500 sign-on bonus, and unemployment insurance during the summer.
“We understand the difficulties of changing, but I believe you would have an added chance to earn extra money that unfortunately we can’t give to you at this point,” said Helene Pohl, finance committee chair.
The contract with Kobussen is for $483,289 for next year. The company president said the company will try and keep the rate down in the coming years, as the district could easily solicit for lower bids.
Last year the district spent $429,506 on bussing.
Pohl made the motion and it was seconded by Russ Johnson.