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May 30. 2014 7:14PM

Salem school officials considering regional bus contract

SALEM — School officials are considering a regional bid for bus transportation services with surrounding school districts, but that bid still looks to be at least three years away.

Salem superintendent Michael Delahanty has advocated for a regional transportation plan and school board members have expressed interest. They recently authorized Delahanty to extend Salem's transportation contract for two years.

However, after discussing the idea with surrounding districts, Delahanty said it would make more sense to extend the First Student contract for three years since neighboring districts have three year contracts.

“We've learned that Timberlane, Derry, Windham, and Pelham are interested in having a multi-district bid option, but two of those districts have extended for another three years,” said Delahanty. If Salem does extend its contract for three years, Delahanty said all the transportation contracts would expire at the same time.

There is an interest in looking at a regional bid in Windham, according to district director of business, finance, and operations Adam Steel.

“(Salem business administrator) Linda MacDonald and I reached out to Pelham, Londonderry, and Hudson to see if they would be willing to join us for a regional bid in the spring of 2017 when our current contract expires,” said Steel. Steel said he hasn’t yet heard from the other districts.

A joint bid could bring greater participation by vendors interested in expanding their base in Southern New Hampshire and cost-savings to each district, Steel said.

Salem School Board member Michael Carney praised Delahanty for reaching out to neighboring districts.

“That's the way we're going to have to do things in the future, by sharing expenses through multiple districts,” he said.

For the present, however, Delahanty said the district has to look at extending its current contract with First Student.

“We've worked out a proposal with First Student for either two years or three years,” said Delahanty. “I think both have attractive terms for our school district.”

For the three year extension, Delahanty said there would be a 4 percent increase for the first year of the extension, with the overall increase coming in at just under 4 percent per year.

Carney said he would like to see more concrete numbers on the three-year extension before authorizing Delahanty to sign an agreement with First Student. Carney said that the increase would be about $80,000 per year.

Delahanty said he could bring the detailed numbers back to the school board at its first meeting in June.

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