SPRINGVILLE — According to former Springville-Griffith Institute transportation supervisor Jay Peplin, there is an error in the proposed 2012 – 2013 S-GI budget, concerning bus costs.
“My job was to recommend purchases and I was given a 400k budget limit, for the purchase of vehicles,” Peplin said. “I gave my recommendations and when the legal notes came out, to the board, the 16-passenger vehicle, instead of being $42,000, was $67,750. I asked them about it, and [S-GI Business Administrator Ted Welch] wanted to put it in the general fund.”
One of Peplin’s responsibilities, as transportation supervisor, was to obtain estimates for buses that would not surpass $400,000. Peplin had estimated the total bus budget, for the 2011 – 2012 school year, to come in around $375,000, for four buses.
Peplin calculated that more than $25,000 was added to his proposed bus costs. The bus in question was estimated by Gorman Enterprises on Dec. 7, 2011, to cost $42,000 for a 16-passenger bus, but appeared in the March 13, 2012, Springville Griffith Institute board meeting agenda to cost an estimated $67,750.
“When this came out, I called Ted [Welch] immediately and told him, this is wrong; we have a problem here,” Peplin said. “At that time, I had a rather odd feeling about my job, so I didn’t say anything more. Truthfully, I was fearing for my job.”
Peplin added that his major concerns focused on incorrect information reaching the voters. “The board only knows what they are told. The board never normally sees these quotes, and my job was to pass these along. Now, the board doesn’t know the real numbers, so ultimately, the voters don’t know that this number is off.”
When asked about the discrepancy in bus costs, S-GI Board Member Janine Caimano attributed the increase to New York state funding’s being cut, from about a 90 percent contribution to a bus’s cost to around 75 percent.
Each year, New York state repays the school district a percentage of the cost of the buses they buy. Therefore, the school gets a low-interest loan, to initially buy the buses, then gets repaid most of the costs by NYS and only has to cover the remaining balance, plus the interest of the loan. For the 2011 – 2012 school year, the district received approximately 90 percent state aid for school buses. For the 2011 – 2012 school year, the district borrowed $400,000, in accordance with Welch’s letter to Peplin, written on April 19, 2013.
As of July 1, 2012, Peplin’s job was eliminated from the school district staff and is now being covered by Eden school district’s transportation supervisor.
In the board meeting agenda for Feb. 12, 2013, a bus purchase proposition was presented for seven buses, totaling $663,127, before state aid. Peplin said he saw this number and thought it was wrong.
Peplin further explained that he thought that the allotted budget of $88,000 for a 16-passenger bus, totaling $176,000 for two buses, was vastly overpriced.
“This time, two of them costs $176,000 or $88,000 apiece,” he said. “It was $42,000 last year, then it was $67,000, and now, all of a sudden, they were $88,000. In my professional opinion, $88,000 is not even close; not even right. From February to March, no one else caught it, in the whole world, except me. Now I guess, my area of expertise, I’m maybe the only other one, in the district, that knows this.”
Peplin noted that, with regard to why the numbers were off, “[The Board] said the numbers were inadvertently doubled, and it was a clerical error.”
Peplin contacted the New York state attorney general on Feb. 2, citing his concerns about possible mistakes in the 2011 – 2012 and 2012 – 2013 school bus propositions. In his complaint form to the attorney general, Peplin wrote that he was seeking “admission and explanation of any and all inaccuracies, in the budget.”
According to Peplin, that formal complaint launched an investigation into the S-GI school district’s budget, which revealed that the school board agenda for March 12 included a section that changed the costs of the buses in question. The 16-passenger buses were then reported to have “an estimated maximum cost of $45,000 each.”
Welch explained that, “The wording for the bus proposition had been revised, since Friday, and new wording for the proposition was included, as an addendum item, specifically that the cost for a 16-passenger bus had been revised.”
The error, according to the revised addendum, was approximately $88,000 between the first estimate of $176,000 on Feb. 12 agenda and the corrected cost of $88,000 in the March 12 agenda.