SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – State leaders want to pump the breaks on how some school districts handle their student transportation contracts. A recent report by the Pennsylvania auditor general found 19 districts paid about $58 million more than the department of education’s transportation reimbursement formula gave them for their school busses.
“That’s money that is costing higher property taxes or that should be going into academic programs,” said Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.
The extra cost, according DePasquale stems from districts opting not to bid their contracts – which is recommended. They simply award them to a company. He says districts that bid, save more.
The report named three Lackawanna County school districts that went over the formula – Valley View, Dunmore, and Scranton.
The Scranton District paid about $4 million more than it was allotted in the years it was audited. The Valley View district paid an additional $1.3 million, while the Dunmore School District paid just under $257 thousand.
The Scranton district recently awarded a controversial no-bid contract to DeNaples Transportation. They didn’t return our calls about the audit, but they told the state they have no plans to competitively bid their contracts. Valley View school officials tell Eyewitness News in a statement they chose a no-bid contract in the past because they felt comfortable that they were getting a good deal.
“We’ve heard districts say they don’t get all they need in terms of reimbursement for the cost they have for transportation,” said Steve Robinson with the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.
DePasquale says the formula can be improved. But the bottom line is districts still need to try to get the best deal by soliciting bids. Taxpayers agree.
“I feel they should shop around and get the cheapest price,” said Patty McMasters.