The Rochester school board postponed voting last night on a controversial $11.4-million contract between RTS and the district to bus city students. Under the terms of the proposed deal (see below), the district would pay more for transportation, but RTS would bus fewer students and use fewer buses.
Superintendent Bolgen Vargas urged the board not to delay the vote on the one-year deal and to accept the contract. A delay could result in even higher costs, he said, because RTS has to have time to prepare before school starts in the fall. And Vargas said that the district needs to improve its negotiating process when it comes to agreements of this type.
But board members said that they need more information before they vote.
Some board members did not understand what the extra costs are for, and others said that they're frustrated by what seems like heavy-handed negotiations by RTS.
"I'm perplexed," board member Jose Cruz said. A visibly annoyed Cruz said that he's frustrated by how the district got into this position -- that the actions of a few students are now going to cost the district nearly $12 million that it doesn't have budgeted. (Student violence at the downtown transit center led RTS to end busing for city school students earlier this year. The district and RTS have, however, worked out a deal for summer-school busing.)
"The people here are going to have to make some tough decisions," he said. Cruz said that the school choice plan and transportation would have to be thoroughly examined in the coming year. The zone lines will have to be adhered to, he said, and students may have to be bused only to schools within their zones.
Board member Malik Evans blasted the district's $65-million transportation budget for next year, calling it unsustainable.
Most families would receive the same service as before under the proposed deal, but some would switch to yellow buses -- including all secondary students in charter schools -- and some would use new RTS express routes.