S-G sharing Niskayuna bus garage this summer; may continue to use after school begins

As a move to save money and increase efficiency, Scotia-Glenville buses are being housed at the Niskayuna bus garage for the summer and may take up residence there once the school year begins.

Scotia-Glenville’s buses are transporting summer students in the special education summer school programs from the Niskayuna site. The buses pick up students as normal and return to be housed in Niskayuna.

Niskayuna’s 130,000 square foot bus garage is located at 1301 Hillside Avenue. It has several bus lifts and space to easily accommodate adding Scotia-Glenville’s buses, said Superintendent Susan Swartz.

The process of joining forces with Niskayuna began two years ago when Scotia-Glenville, Niskayuna, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake and Mohonasen merged some out-of-district routes to places like the Capital Region BOCES, Myers Center, Smart Tech, private schools and other out-of-district student placements. Now, those students may begin on a Scotia-Glenville bus that transfers them to a Niskayuna or Mohonasen bus at some other location.

The second phase of that transition was sharing Lori Stern, Scotia-Glenville’s transportation director, with Niskayuna. She is the assistant director of transportation in Niskayuna.

This third phase, involving housing some Scotia-Glenville buses at Niskayuna where they can be worked on and inspected by the state, began this summer with the limited runs. But Swartz said Scotia-Glenville may opt to house most if not all S-G buses in Niskayuna once school starts. Buses would be dispatched out of Niskayuna; community member who need to contact the bus garage would call the usual number – 347-3600 ext. 79100.

“The overriding reason for starting all of this was to ensure that our community would get the tax breaks,” said Swartz, referring to the state rule that school district’s demonstrate lower costs and efficiencies in order for the annual checks to be mailed to the community. That program has now ended.

“But once we got into this, we saw that it made a lot of sense and that there were many efficiencies that could be realized by joining with Niskayuna and other schools.”

She mentioned purchasing supplies – air filters, tires, etc. – as a larger group ensures cheaper prices for all of the school districts. She also noted that Scotia-Glenville buses are now parked inside the huge Niskayuna facility instead of outside like at the S-G bus garage. That will be a benefit on cold winter mornings when it comes to being able to easily start the buses.

She also said that the bus lift at the Scotia-Glenville bus garage broke two years ago. Instead of replacing the lift at an estimated cost of at least $150,000, it made sense to take the S-G buses to one of the several available lifts at Niskayuna. S-G is renting a lift there for less than $10,000 per year ($2,600 after state aid reimbursement). All major bus repairs have been done at the Niskayuna facility since then. State Department of Transportation inspections of the S-G buses have also been done in Niskayuna in the past year because the lifts are needed for the inspections.

Mechanics’ supplies, parts and inventory will be moved to the Niskayuna site this summer. A new storage facility within the Niskayuna garage separately houses the parts and inventory from both Niskayuna and Scotia-Glenville. The S-G employees report for work in Niskayuna.

However, she has not seen an evaluation of the overall costs of moving S-G transportation operations to Niskayuna permanently.

“I have to see how the numbers work and whether it makes sense for us to run buses to West Glenville from Niskayuna, for example,” she said. “I’ll be getting those and be able to see on paper whether this would make sense for the regular school year.”

Those figures, for example, would have to account for additional driver time to drive the buses from Niskayuna to and from Scotia-Glenville schools and bus stops at least four times a day (back and forth in the morning; back and forth in the afternoon.

Both school districts are also sharing the costs and staff for the state-mandated driver training safety refresher courses.

Even if all of the buses are moved across the river and dispatch from there every day, the Scotia-Glenville bus garage would remain in business for now. Swartz said the current garage would still be needed to fuel the buses as well as servicing and fueling buildings and grounds equipment.