Orange County Transit LLC (OCT) has sued the Valley Central School District (VCSD), claiming that it is owed for transportation services it did not actually provide during the state ordered shutdown of schools from March to June 30, 2020. The lawsuit also alleges that OCT is entitled to pay for its costs of cleaning its own buses during the current school year.
The VCSD noted in a press release that the New York State Education Department has given clear guidance to school districts that state aid will only be paid for the transportation of students.
OCT ceased operations for Valley Central effective Nov. 30. Since 2017, OCT has provided transportation services for both the Wallkill and Valley Central School Districts.
“Wallkill is paying me and Valley Central’s not,” said OCT Owner John Mensch. “So why is that?”
The company noted in a statement that despite Gov. Cuomo’s decision to not withhold any money from school aid payments made to VCSD in September 2020 and VCSD’s receipt of a $563,686.00 distribution from New York State under Congress’ passage of the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act, the district refused to pay Orange County Transit for the substantial costs and expenses they incurred as they complied with New York State guidelines for enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of buses.
After several weeks spent negotiating with the district, OCT determined that the continued provision of bus services was impracticable.
“I can’t keep laying out money for Valley Central when they just refuse to pay...,” Mensch said. “I can’t keep providing service for free.”
Effective Dec. 1, the district assigned a short-term emergency contract to First Student, Inc. The VCSD has paused in-person instruction from Nov. 30 until Jan. 19, however they are obligated to provide transportation to students attending private, parochial and out of district special education programs that continue in-person instruction.
“We are very thankful that First Student was able to begin transporting children immediately, preventing any disruption in service to our community,” said VCSD School Business Official Brad Conklin.
Valley Central added in a press release that they will immediately begin the process of hiring a new transportation contractor.
“Please be patient as First Student drivers become familiar with the routes,” the district said in a press release to parents. “Due to ongoing litigation, the district will have no further comment at this time but will continue to share updated information as it becomes available.”