Wednesday, December 29, 1999

State proposes
to let DOE run
school buses

The transfer of the $21 million
operation aims to
raise efficiency

By Crystal Kua


Busing public school students was simpler when school hours and calendars were uniform, the state's budget chief says. But with multiple track scheduling, year-round options and other variables, the scenario has changed.

"The (bus transportation) program has become a lot more complicated," state Budget and Finance Director Neal Miyahira said.

Now -- in an effort to increase government efficiency and tie policies closer to budgets for better accountability -- Gov. Ben Cayetano's administration wants to transfer responsibility for running school-bus services from the Department of Accounting and General Services to the Department of Education.

At a meeting today, a Board of Education committee is scheduled to take up the proposed transfer of the $21 million bus transportation operation and other programs to the DOE.

Currently, Accounting and General Services contracts with companies to provide bus service for regular and special education students.

The governor's plan calls for the DOE to assume jurisdiction over the bus transportation services program, its budget and 10 employees. The transfer would be effective July 1 and be completed through executive order.

Miyahira pointed to Kula Kaiapuni O Anuenue, the Hawaiian language immersion school, as an example of how the Department of Education would be better able to link policy to budget considerations.

The Palolo Valley school was threatened with closure at the start of the school year when parents couldn't raise money to bus the majority of students to campus. It didn't qualify for subsidized bus transportation under DOE rules.

Funds for this year eventually were found, but future busing is unresolved.

Kaimo Muhlestein, the parent representative for Anuenue's school-community based management council, said the transfer to the DOE would be a positive step and help cut down on "red tape."

"This means it will be managed within one department and not two departments and not subject to DAGS," Muhlestein said. "That's one less headache."

Karen Knudsen, the board's first vice chairwoman and head of its budget and fiscal accountability committee, said the board has long felt certain functions should come under the DOE.

But Knudsen said the board wants to ensure the transfer will not hurt the DOE's budget.

"Are we getting additional supervisors, personnel, payroll?" she asked. "Where are these folks going to go? Where are we going to house these people? It might be a good idea, but we need to make sure we can handle it."

Department personnel will brief the board at today's meeting. However, student transportation branch chief George Okano said he and all employees under him will be transferred to the DOE.

"Naturally, there's a level of anxiety whenever there's a possibility of change," Okano said.

Miyahira said employees affected by the change will remain at their present physical locations for now. He said the proposed changes are administrative and would not require consultation with the unions. Hawaii Government Employees Association representatives could not be reached for comment.

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
[Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 1999 Honolulu Star-Bulletin