BAR HARBOR — Everyone in the area is having trouble recruiting bus drivers. This year, that challenge means a hit to Bar Harbor’s school budget, as a new five-year contract with bus company John T. Cyr & Sons came in $45,000 higher than predicted. The bid for the 2017-2018 school year is $264,000 and increases at roughly 10 percent per year for each of the five years. The cost of fuel is not included in the contract; it is expected to be $35,000 for the ‘17-‘18 school year.
The school committee approved the new five-year contract Monday, citing limited options. Only one bid was received for the contract. The school is required by state law to provide transportation. They could choose to lease or buy buses, but then they would have to find drivers for them.
Rick Soules of Cyr & Sons appeared in person to explain his bid, Superintendent Marc Gousse said. “He was very gracious. It’s a marked increase, so he came in person to explain, ‘Here’s why it’s going up.’
“We feel very comfortable recommending continuance of the service,” Gousse said.
Most of the drivers come from the Old Town area, so Cyr provides a car for their commute. Soules offered to write into the contract that the cost would come down if they were able to hire a more local driver.
Two of the four drivers currently serving the school under the Cyr contract have been there for six years or more, Conners Emerson Principal Barb Neilly told the school committee last month when they put the contract out to bid.
The contract makes buses available for athletics and other co-curricular activities, she said. It also has been easier to contract out the work because “if there’s a bus breakdown, it’s their problem,” she said.
The impact of the change on the town’s tax rate will depend on the rest of the school budget, which the school committee has not yet finalized.
“It’s our job to be responsible,” Chair Kristi Losquadro said, “but it’s also our job to help Barb fight for her budget.”