Monday, May 16, 2016

"Kids First/Reach Higher Hoboken" Voted to Privatize Transportation "to Save Money" in 2014; Costs Escalate to $1,612,063 in 2015-16

It was just about 2 years ago when the Kids First/Reach Higher Hoboken Board of Education majority decided to privatize transportation services (bus drivers and aides mostly) for the Hoboken School District. At the time, Kids First Board members said that the schools were "$2.3 million dollars underfunded" and that privatization would "save the district a great deal of money." You can read more about the context of these cuts in an article from the Hoboken Reporter entitled "63 school employees, three teachers to lose job" from May 18, 2014.

So....was money saved by eliminating the Transportation Department? Seems like a reasonable question to ask. 

Item #1- Actual Money Spent
According to the 2015 Hoboken Board of Education Audit Report:
In 2014 the HBOE spent $1,551,318 on Pupil Transportation 
(see figure 1)
In 2015 the HBOE spent $1,438,187 on Pupil Transportation 
(see figure 1)
In 2015-16 the HBOE plans on spending at least $1,612,063 on Pupil Transportation
(see Figure 2)

No money was saved....According to publicly available documents, Pupil Transportation spends the same if not more money now than 2 years ago. Unfortunately, many dedicated and competent bus drivers and aides lost their jobs. 

Figure 1: 2015 HBOE Audit Report

Figure 2: 2016-17 HBOE Budget
* anticipated costs are historically lower than revised and actual

Item #2- Year to Year Variation in Cost
When we add the total budgeted amount on Pupil Transportation from 2006 to 2016 (see Figure 1) we obtain a total sum of $17,361,721 and an average of $1,578,338 per year in non-adjusted inflation dollars. Most telling, we find a standard deviation of approximately $96,878 per year-- (plus or minus) as there is year to year variability (see Figure 3). Privatization does not seem to have changed Pupil Transportation costs beyond anything expected from normal year to year variability. Statistically, this would be indicate no significant effect of privatization on Pupil Transportation spending to date. 

Item #3- The 2014 Surplus
On December 9, 2014 the HBOE was informed they had a surplus of $1.5 million dollars 

Item #4- The 2015 Surplus
On January 19, 2016 the HBOE was informed they had a fund balance of $5.4 million dollars 

 According to publicly available documents, the HBOE is spending  roughly the same and possibly more on Pupil Transportation after privatization then it did before privatization. Certainly no different than normal variability. During the same period of time, the district has enjoyed $millions in fund balances**. 

Figure 3: Sum, Average, and SD for Pupil Transportation 2006-2015

The hard working people who made up the Transportation Department in 2014 are essentially gone from the district. No one is left to speak for them. No union. No association. But we should take a moment to remember them. And we should remember the claims of how much money would be saved by privatizing Transportation that were made by the Kids First/Reach Higher Hoboken Board Majority that has yet to materialize. It is worth remembering the reality of what actually has taken place. Some have said it is not too much of a stretch to imagine similar types of arguments being used to privatize other services in the district down the road. This remains to be seen. 

According to the Hoboken Reporter, the six current Hoboken Board of Education voting members who have run under the Kids First/Reach Higher Hoboken banner are : Leon Gold, Board President Thomas Kluepfel, Board VP Jennifer Evans, Irene Sobolov, Sharyn Angley, and Monica Stromwall. 

** Of course, this makes claims of the district's looming "bankruptcy" by Leon Gold in 2014 questionable at best...misinformed and potentially misleading at worst.