Daniel Boone’s school board votes to get rid of longtime bus service providers

Daniel Boone School Board voted 6-3 to oust local student bus service providers Klein Transportation and New Rhoads Transportation in favor of a seven-year contract with Krise Transportation Inc. of western Pennsylvania.

Klein and New Rhoads, both of Amity Township, have been in the business of student transportation since the district was founded in the 1950s, officials said.

Board members Asheli Godfrey, Kevin Stroble, Bucky Scott, Tanya Bell, Russell Jirik and President Julia Olafson voted yes. Beverly Albright, Jennifer Leone and Christen Thompson voted no.

The decision was considered, Olafson said in comments to the reading eagle After the meeting.

“Daniel Boone wasn’t unhappy with our service from New Rhoads and Klein, but we just went with the cheapest deal,” Olafson said.

Superintendent Brett Cooper said the decision was based on cost estimates because the exact cost of the contract with Jefferson County-based Krise is unclear and will vary based on factors such as mileage driven, fuel costs and the number of buses needed.

Officials said a rough estimate of the total amount saved over seven years could be around $1 million.

In comments after the meeting, Albright said she believes any cost savings promised by Krise could be overshadowed by a myriad of potential issues.

“I’m very concerned about Krise’s ability to get buses and drivers, where the buses and fuel will be stored, and how reliably they’ll get our kids to school on time,” Albright said. “I have a lot of questions and doubts as to how this will be accomplished in such a short time.”

Leone said that considering multiple pricing options and local tax revenue from Klein and New Rhoads, it was not clear that the contract with Krise would save the district money.

“Krise is not local and we will not get any tax revenue from them,” Leone said.

Tim Krise, founder and president of Krise Transportation, said Thursday that the company’s policy is never to make promises to any district about the exact number of bus drivers the company can hire.

“These days, there are shortages of drivers everywhere. Every day is a challenge. What we’re telling the school district is that we’re giving it our best,” Krise said. “To ensure that every bus will be covered on the first day, we never do.”

Krise said the company hires drivers in the district and is looking to lease or buy land for bus storage in the district.

He said Krise has always set up shop locally in the 13 districts it currently serves, not just to save fuel, but for convenience and for emergency evacuation.

“(Hire local drivers) is very important to us. It’s not beneficial for them to drive an hour or 30 minutes to catch their bus,” Krise said.

Krise noted that the company also employs roving bus drivers, some of whom are from Jefferson County, to replace drivers in the event of a shortage or emergency.

Krise, founded in 2016, employs a fleet of about 1,000 buses and vans and offers service in locations from Philadelphia to Erie, the company’s chairman said.

The vote took place at a special meeting on May 12. It was originally scheduled for May 9 but was postponed to allow more time to announce the vote.

Support for local businesses

About 15 residents of the neighborhood, including representatives and employees of Klein and New Rhoads, spoke at the meeting in favor of maintaining the current bus service.

Some residents agreed with Leone’s assessment that it was unclear whether the contract with Krise would actually produce significant savings.

“I graduated from (Daniel Boone), we love Rhoads and Klein’s,” said resident Christine Flaherty. “We trust Rhoads and Klein’s. My kids love them, they’re reliable, they’re easy going, they’re no problem for you.

Flaherty and others were in tears as they expressed their support for the two local bus companies and their comments were met with applause from residents.

Steve Rhoads, owner of New Rhoads Transportation, expressed his disappointment in a press release a day after the meeting.

“We are sad to see this legacy come to an end… We live in the community, pay taxes in the community, and are happy to have been able to serve the community for so many years,” Rhoads said.

Some residents present at the meeting wondered if a company not local to the neighborhood would feel obliged to offer the same quality of service.

Others at the meeting also asked where Krise, as an out-of-county company, would store its buses and whether Krise would be able to hire and train enough drivers to serve the district.

At the meeting, the district council members seemed unsure what Krise would say later in the week. reading eagle.

“These are unknowns that (the district) as a potential customer has to be concerned about,” Olafson said during the meeting. “But (Krise) assured the district he could deliver.”

“Only time will tell”

Olafson said the caveat to Krise’s insurance was that the first 2½ months of the contract would be considered a start-up period, where Krise would not be in breach of contract for lack of drivers.

The uncertainties surrounding the contract with Krise are offset by the financial risk of another contract with Klein and New Rhoads, Olafson said.

She said the contracts presented by New Rhoads and Klein included annual price increases indexed to the consumer price index and not fixed, as well as other expenses missing from the Krise contract.

By contrast, Olafson said Krise’s contract includes a flat 3.5% annual raise that wouldn’t take effect until the third year of the deal.

Thompson said that although she voted against the proposal in favor of local businesses, she believes the council made the right decision.

“I was worried that people in the area would lose their jobs. At the same time, the cost savings with Krise are substantial,” Thompson said in comments to the Eagle After the meeting. “I hope we made the right decision, but only time will tell.”

The contract with Krise begins on July 1 and ends on June 30, 2029.

Budget issues

In other matters, the board approved a $66 million draft budget for 2022-23 that includes the possibility of a tax increase up to the state maximum of 4.5%.

Cooper said the final budget will not necessarily include a maximum tax increase, or any tax increase.

“We haven’t had a maximum tax increase since before I took over as superintendent,” Cooper said. “It’s been quite a number of years since we last voted to go all the way.”

Cooper noted that the board’s standard operating procedure has always been to approve the possibility of a maximum increase with the preliminary budget.

As to whether a maximum or tax increase is likely in the final budget, Cooper offered no comment other than to say that any statement on the matter would be preliminary.

An increase in the state’s top tax rate by 1.46 mills – for a total mileage of 33.84 – would increase real estate bills by $146 per $100,000 of property value.

Council approved a 2.5% tax increase last year, which increased the mileage by 0.8 mils – an increase of $80 for a $100,000 property – at the current rate of 32 ,38.

A final budget approval meeting is scheduled for June 13 at 7:30 p.m.

Melvin Z. Madore