The Hillsborough County School Board heard directly from a consultant Wednesday who says the district’s bus transportation department is at a breaking point.
"You have a fleet that is getting older," Tom Platt of School Bus Consultants said in a workshop with board members. "And you don't have the staff to maintain (it)."
District officials read his dire words in a report released this week. The district’s bus fleet is aging quickly. This year, according to the report, school officials should replace 349 buses at a cost of almost $39 million.
Since that’s unaffordable, the district is searching for another solution. But that may be easier said than done given the apparent animosity between the board and Superintendent MaryEllen Elia.
"I think you have some people on the board who frankly don't like the superintendent and don't trust her," board member Candy Olson said.
"If you heard, there is a number of things we agreed upon in this conversation,” she said. “So we're working hard on the same goal."
Board member April Griffin, who has been critical of the superintendent’s handling of transportation issues, including the fleet’s condition and a driver shortage, said the board is heading toward a solution.
"I think the board is on top of it now,” she said. “I have faith that we are going to move forward now in a positive direction."
The conversation will continue next Wednesday when they meet once again to address the issue of getting new buses.
The consultant has suggested a plan to acquire 100 new buses each year for the next 14 years.