School board to vote on busing contract


By Harold Gwin

The debate could come to a head at Thursday’s meeting of the fiscal- oversight commission.

YOUNGSTOWN — A controversial transportation support-services contract proposal could come up for a vote before the Youngstown school board Tuesday.

The board’s business committee reviewed the pact with Community Bus Services Inc. of Youngstown this week and decided to present it to the full board.

If the school board approves it, the contract will move to the state fiscal- oversight commission controlling school- district spending Thursday.

Commission members have said publicly they won’t support it, calling the request for proposals that led to the CBS contract “shoddy” and “one-sided,” among other things.

Still, Roger Nehls, the commission chairman who has strongly criticized the request for proposals, told school officials at last month’s commission meeting to bring the CBS contract before the commission if it is ready — or even if it isn’t.

The commission will then decide what to do with it, he said.

The commission, appointed after the state placed Youngstown in fiscal emergency in November 2006, must approve district spending.

After reviewing the document’s terms, Andrea Mahone, a newly elected member of the school board and a business committee member, asked if the district is still moving forward with the contract proposal even though the state commission has said no.

Michael Murphy, business committee chairman, said that, based on Nehls’ comments, the commission wants to see it.

Tony DeNiro, assistant superintendent for school-business affairs, said he will present it to the commission at 11 a.m. Thursday in the board meeting room at 20 W. Wood St.

The contract guarantees the district a $500,000 annual savings off its current $4 million annual transportation bill.

In return, CBS wants the district to extend its current three-year contract with the district for special-needs student transportation for an additional five years. CBS was paid $1.6 million for the first year of that contract and it increased by 3.8 percent annually. It is now in the second year.

The support services contract calls for CBS to provide, at no cost to the district, various routing, payroll, maintenance and other computer software as well as digital video recording-global positioning system units for 60 of the district’s buses.

All of that software and equipment would become district property the moment it is installed, DeNiro said.

If the $500,000 annual savings fails to materialize in any given year, the special needs contract extension would be cut by one year, he said.

The school board has said that CBS was the only bidder to meet the specifications found in the request for proposals, but the oversight commission has said that request was flawed. The commission had even advised the school board to scrap the request, but the school board put it out anyway.

Anthony Catale, school board president, has said the CBS contract would guarantee the district a savings and doesn’t hinder the effort to recover from fiscal emergency.

The ongoing debate has prompted the commission to tighten its grip on district finances, expanding its control to include all requests for proposals, all purchase orders and all contracts for legal services.

The school board said the commission may have overstepped its legal authority and is investigating that issue.

Not all board members agree. Mahone and Richard Atkinson have opposed efforts to challenge the commission, and both also have expressed reservations about the CBS contract.

Catale, Murphy, Lock P. Beachum Sr., June Drennen and Rachel Hanni have voted to challenge the commission.

gwin@vindy.com

More like this from vindy.com

Subscribe Today

Sign up for our email newsletter to receive daily news.

Want more? Click here to subscribe to either the Print or Digital Editions.