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Transportation firm offers Penn Hills district savings but wants 10-year contract

| Friday, April 21, 2017, 1:30 p.m.
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
Buses are parked at First Student school bus transportation provider in Hempfield Twp. on March 16, 2016.

The company providing bus service for the Penn Hills School District wants to rework the contract it signed last year to add services and make it a 10-year deal.

Krise Transportation was the only company to submit a bid to the financially troubled district when it was awarded the five-year contract. Under the proposed contract that would expire in the 2026-27 school year, it would provide all transportation — including buses, vans, bus monitors and handicapped services. Some services are currently performed by other contractors.

“Ten years, I realize, is a long time. I want to be in it for the long haul,” said Tim Krise, owner of the company.

Krise has already gained favor from the district — which is almost $170 million in debt — by deferring payments to his company until the summer.

District Business Manager David Roussos said Krise has worked beyond his contract requirements to help the district during its financial crisis.

“(Krise) has been really good at being willing to come to the table again to discuss the contract and modifications that can be made to benefit us, and, obviously, him as well,” Roussos said.

The proposed contract would offer a 2 percent discount over its life and freeze cost increases for three of the 10 years. Roussos estimated the contract would save the district a little over $2.3 million based on what it is paying now and future market projections.

“I'm trying to get us first to balance the budget next year,” Roussos said. “This will go a long way to helping us get there. From an economic standpoint (the new contract) makes a lot of sense.”

Not everyone during discussion of the proposal at a recent town hall meeting thought it should be approved. Resident Robert Larko said the projected savings are based on a “bad deal” in which the district is already paying too much.

“We're in a community that is struggling financially. We're not Franklin Regional and we're not Pine-Richland, but we're paying a certain percentage higher,” Larko said.

Larko said information he received from those districts shows they pay about $80 less than the $349 per day, per bus cost Penn Hills pays. He suggested riding out the contract and going out for bid again when it expires.

But Roussos said he is “very comfortable” relying on the Punxsutawney-based Krise Transportation's expertise to help the district find ways to cut costs.

“Staying with (the five-year contract) is not financially prudent,” Roussos said.

Penn Hills School Board is set to vote on the proposed contract in May.

Samson X Horne is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2325 or via Twitter @spinal_tapp.

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