School bus contractors upset about school system budget [Letter]


The following is the statement of the Harford County School Bus Contractors Association regarding the budget approved by the Harford County Board of Education on June 10:

Like a great many of our fellow county residents, the members of the Harford County School Bus Contractors Association (HCSBCA) were dismayed to see the severe budget cuts made by the Harford County School Board at their June 10 meeting. We certainly acknowledge the incredibly difficult position of the school board in being faced with the need to close the gap between the budget they had approved earlier in the year and one they actually had enough money to fund. That being said, we must take issue with several of the recent decisions made by the board as we are deeply concerned by some of the proposed changes to pupil transportation and the impact of those changes on student safety.

The association's first and foremost priority is the safety of the students we transport. We take enormous pride in our record of unparalleled service and professionalism. We serve as a model system which other counties – in Maryland and beyond - look to emulate, a system that has earned this county multiple national safety awards and commendations. We view several of the proposed changes to the pupil transportation system as having the potential to undermine the safety of the students of Harford County.

By consolidating a number of bus stops and establishing "depot stops," students will be required to walk increased distances to reach the nearest bus stop. It follows that they will be more frequently required to cross roadways, at times in less than favorable weather and light conditions. The prospect of larger groups of students at each bus stop also increases the potential for behavior problems, including fights, bullying and horse play at each bus stop. These are all real very considerations stemming directly from the proposed reconfiguration of area bus stops, and ones that concern us as school bus contractors. Moreover, these changes come immediately on the heels of another significant change directly related to student safety: the county's $1 million reduction of our liability insurance just last year, which reduced our county-secured liability coverage by one-half.

A related item of concern to the association stems from the school board's recent decision to purchase four new full-sized, fully air-conditioned school buses to the tune of approximately $100,000 each. We believe the board should have instead transferred responsibility for the routes belonging to those four buses to one or more county school bus contractors, thereby saving themselves several hundred thousand dollars while in no way affecting the job security of their own county drivers, given the existence of county-run special needs routes. Further, in addition to saving money, should the school board have chosen to reallocate the routes to a local contractor or contractors they would have been helping to offset the foreseeable cuts to contractor bus routes and subsequent cuts to positions employed by said contractors.

It is the association's hope that the school board revisits this decision and ultimately reverses it. The Harford County School Bus Contractors Association {HCSBCA} serves as the collective voice of 40 locally-owned and operated private school bus companies that contract with Harford County Public Schools to own and operate the vehicles that transport schoolchildren across the county. In Harford County alone, a total of 400 private contractor-owned school buses service public school students. The county owns and operates 100 special needs buses in addition to those 400 general education buses. Together, they transport over 33,000 students and travel 44,000 miles on a daily basis, servicing 54 public schools and 16 out of county or non-public schools.

For more information, please contact Erin Appel at 240.593.3688 or

Steve Nelson

President of the Harford County School Bus Contractors Association

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