School looking to save money, but it will come at a cost

Thursday, October 9, 2008

High fuel prices are forcing Greencastle School Corporation officials to search for cost-saving measures in the transportation department, even if it means spending money to save money.

On Wednesday night, GCSC Supt. Bob Green told members of the school board that he is considering buying a computer program that would help the transportation department plan more efficient bus routes, in order to save money for fuel and other associated costs.

The catch?

The program sold by the company called VersaTran could cost the school corporation $21,000.

Green said the man selling the software told him that Greencastle could save as much as $200,000 per year on transportation costs. Year-to-date, transportation costs are at $700,000, according to information provided to the school board.

Following Wednesday night's meeting, Green said that he felt the savings estimate was a little high. Even still, he said he believes the software is a good idea if it will help the transportation department plan out more efficient bus routes.

School board member Jack Berry asked whether this type of calculation could be done in house, meaning it would be done by employees of GCSC and not a software program.

"That $20,000 seems like a big chunk," Berry said.

Green said after the meeting that he doesn't think he or the transportation department has the expertise to do the calculation. He said he had looked at four, possibly more, different software companies and they offered similar programs with price tags ranging from $12,000 on the low end to $22,000 on the high end. Green's choice is VersaTran.

School board members were skeptical about the plan and asked that GCSC's transportation department consult with the North Putnam Schools where a similar software program is being used. Green said North Putnam has been pleased with its program.

The superintendent acknowledged that some in the community may be concerned by the cost of the software, however, he said that some type of action to reduce costs must be taken. He plans to purchase the program with money from the technology fund.

At several school board meetings, Green has said that the number of bus stops may have to be reduced in order to save on fuel costs, which would mean more students would have to walk to school. Green figures that option would not be received well by the community.

Other savings that would factor in, according to Green, are bus driver salaries. This would happen if the corporation eliminates some bus routes and in turn, cuts bus drivers.

Also, fewer routes could mean fewer buses, which in turn, would mean fewer buses to insure and maintain.

"We want to do what is safest and most economical," Green told the school board. "Before we pull the trigger (and buy the software), we want to be sure."

Green hopes to make a decision on whether to purchase the software soon and report back to the school board in November.

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  • Maybe the could go back to the "old fashion way" and use paper and pencil to figure the routes to be more cost effective. This would be better than spending $20,000 on a computer program.

    If the "adults" can't use simple math, why should we expect the students to learn it.

    -- Posted by Taxpayer5253 on Thu, Oct 9, 2008, at 6:51 AM
  • Taxpayer5253.. My sentiments exactly! I work in Transportation. With all the "fancy" computer stuff the best way still to plan a direct and effecient route is to use the atlas and simple math. Maybe instead of relying on someone/something else to show them what is best why not make the people that we pay to do the job do the job? What a novel approach.

    -- Posted by calcans1 on Thu, Oct 9, 2008, at 7:47 AM
  • They could save money by filling up the buses at transfer instead of sending buses to 3 different schools with only a few children on them. Let the empty buses sit at transfer until afternoon. Have the drivers of the empty buses get on another bus in order to return to the bus barn & do the same thing for afternoon routes.

    -- Posted by sadNmad on Thu, Oct 9, 2008, at 9:08 AM
  • Are you freakin' kidding me! Take money out of another fund to pay for transportation costs. Sounds like a broken record to me. Dodger had a good idea, let the students work on a program or let the people that drive the routes plan more efficeint routes. I myself am sick of paying hundreds of dollars for books every year and then you tell me that my child can't ride the bus either. Sounds like we need a new Super if you can't figure out answers on your own without spending $21k on something that is going to be obselete as quickly as you install it. Are we in Washington D.C or Greencastle? Can't we use the people we have to solve our problems instead of out sourcing (sound familiar anyone) to some other company that is only going to tell us common sense answers. Let's quit throwing money at problems and fix them internally with a map, paper, pen, and oh yah, your brain!

    -- Posted by HelloMcFly on Fri, Oct 10, 2008, at 8:33 AM
  • Maybe the schools should really think out of the box and do like a lot of businesses are doing - go to a 4 day week, and actually close the buildings for 1 day.

    This would lower heating/cooling, electric bills, transportation (fuel/mileage on buses). It is not an easy plan to implement, but I think NP had one approved by the state that could be looked at and modified.

    As for the busing, put the drivers together and let them determine a plan. They drive the routes daily and if asked could probably come up with a workable plan quicker, cheaper and more effective than someone using a computer program. We get in the habit of thinking technology is the answer and forget that real people may know what is best, we just need to ask them. To make it really work, let them share in some way in the real savings they come up with.

    -- Posted by hoosierpete on Fri, Oct 10, 2008, at 9:51 AM
  • I like the plan of the 4 day a week for kids to go to school. I am with ya on that. My doctor in Indy is doing this at his practice. It's longer days but saves gas and it a long weekend.

    -- Posted by savethekids on Fri, Oct 10, 2008, at 10:22 AM
  • If the kids go to four days a week, that opens a whole other issue of daycare. Let's face it, most parents work 5 days per week... we don't need anymore latchkey kids in Greencastle as I'm sure there are more than there should be already. I think four days would be fantastic, if there were an option for the fifth day for parents.

    -- Posted by MsBehaving on Thu, Oct 16, 2008, at 8:50 AM
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