Mayor responds to bus plan request

The mayor’s office has answered the school district’s call for clarity on the city’s plans to provide bus transportation to public and parochial students beginning with the 2019-20 school year.

In a letter dated Jan. 18 to school Superintendent Dr. Chris Clouet, Mayor Mark Lauretti stated that “the city of Shelton, consistent with the written settlement of July 2018, will abide by the terms and conditions of that agreement” and “the city will timely provide all required personnel, equipment, insurance and general assurances required by the bid and the settlement.”

Board of Education Chair Mark Holden announced during Wednesday’s regular board meeting that the letter had been received.

"The school district is committed to supporting the city in this new endeavor,” said Clouet. “We want this to work."

School officials had been waiting for the mayor’s bus plan since December. Clouet said the school administration’s attorney sent a letter, dated Dec. 7, 2018, containing several questions, mirroring those that would be answered by a private bus company, to Lauretti asking for this plan.

“We will be operating under the same plan that we are operating right now, as we have operated under before,” said Lauretti last month. “There is nothing confusing about this.”

Clouet said the Board of Education was simply seeking confirmation of the city's preparations to take over the school transportation services for Shelton public and parochial school students. Among the issues to which the board sought clarification, according to Clouet, were personnel, insurance and equipment maintenance.

Clouet said the board was just asking to see the same information from city that it would receive from any bidder seeking to earn the district’s transportation contract.

Lauretti had stated last month that, in his view, the settlement agreement between the city and the Board of Education — finalized last July — gives all the necessary details of the city’s plan to take over the transportation duties, at what the mayor believes will be a significant cost savings.

Lauretti said his office’s estimates show an annual $1 million cost savings by the city — which owns 60 propane school buses — taking over the bus routes.

“We could be wrong, but that will be on me. I’ll bear that burden,” said Lauretti, adding that Clouet and the Board of Education were not willing to work with the city this past school year, which left cost savings on the table.

According to the settlement, the deal between the city and Board of Education would be for three years with a cost of no more than $3.15 million. The settlement states “If the city determines that it is unable to perform the transportation services required by the Board for the 2019-2022 school years, the Board shall put the transportation services out to bid.”

This move comes months after the city moved to assume control of the bus transportation services, in order to save the city money, said Lauretti.

No deal could be reached during the 2018-19 budget cycle, and the Board of Education voted in May 2018 to sign a three-year deal with Durham. That decision resulted in the city filing suit against the Board of Education — the settlement of which led to a one-year deal for Durham to bus Shelton’s students to class, ending at the close of this present school year.