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Thursday, October 22, 2020

Top Stories > General

Schools entangled in lawsuits with Rolling V

Sep 28, 2020

By Isabel Braverman - staff writer

By: File photo by Patricio Robayo
Rolling V Bus Corp says Liberty and Fallsburg school districts have breached their contracts by refusing to pay for the 180-day period during the coronavirus pandemic.
LIBERTY — Rolling V Bus Corp provides transportation services to many schools in the area. But during the COVID-19 pandemic when schools were shut down, it appears the bus company is involved in some disputes with two local school districts, Liberty and Fallsburg.
In a lawsuit filed last week, Liberty Central School District alleges that Rolling V “is attempting to profit off the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the district's reliance on [Rolling V] as the only available contractor to the district for student busing services.”
According to the lawsuit, Rolling V is threatening to cut off its services unless the district makes payments to them, and is charging for services that the district says were never provided.
But President of Rolling V Bus Corp, Phil Vallone, said they are asking the schools to honor their contract, which covers 180 days of service.
“Rolling V has faithfully served local school districts' students and families with one mission—and that is keeping children safe,” Vallone said in a statement to the Democrat.
“We work hard to be a strong member of the community, but fairness, respect and loyalty must be a two-way street. We believe the schools are in violation of our contracts; we have tried to work this out and are now seeking resolution from the courts.”
He added that five of the seven school districts that they serve “have agreed to keep us funded,” which includes Monticello, Tri-Valley, Livingston Manor, Roscoe and Ellenville districts.
When schools closed in New York State on March 18, Liberty Central School District did not require bus transportation services.
Rolling V provided approximately 115 days of student transportation during the 2019-2020 school year, and the district paid them $2,002,104 for such services, the lawsuit states.
It continues, Rolling V did not provide student transportation for the months of April, May and June 2020, yet billed the district for the cost of student transportation for each of those months.
The district used Rolling V to deliver meals to students through the end of the school year in June. Between April and June, Rolling V charged the district $692,022, which the district paid in its entirety.
But the district says Rolling V wasn't entitled to that amount as it was not included in their transportation agreement, and is asking for “an award of damages in an amount to be determined at trial, but in any event not less than $692,022.”
The lawsuit also states that Rolling V is currently providing student transportation to the school district, but is threatening to discontinue service on October 12 “unless the district pay[s] for services,” which is listed in the lawsuit as $915,819.
In a different matter, a lawsuit filed in June by Rolling V Bus Corp against Fallsburg Central School District alleges that the school district breached its contract and owes the bus company $4.5 million with interest as well as costs of suits including attorneys' fees.
According to the lawsuit, in the beginning of April the school hoped to authorize payment to Rolling V, but then the district “refused to pay under the terms and conditions of the contract.”
The school has been invoiced for services provided, the lawsuit states, and to date the invoices for March, April and May remain unpaid.
Fallsburg Superintendent Dr. Ivan Katz said the disagreement surrounds how much Rolling V should be paid to transport meals to students at home.
In a statement (which can be read in full below), Katz says he is hopeful they can reach an agreement.
“The District truly appreciates the hard work of Rolling V's staff to continue to provide transportation services for the District. The District and Rolling V have, thus far, been unable to reach an agreement to resolve their disagreements about the proper amounts owed for post-pandemic transportation services,” Katz said.
Court documents state a settlement conference will be held on October 14, and a preliminary injunction hearing will be held on November 2.
A representative from Liberty Central School District could not comment on pending litigation.

Statement from Ivan Katz:
In 2006, the School District and Rolling V entered into a contractual arrangement pursuant to which Rolling V would provide transportation services for the District. This contractual arrangement has since been extended and is now scheduled to expire on June 30, 2021.
When schools were ordered to institute remote learning in March due to the pandemic, the need for transporting students was eliminated. Rather, it was replaced with a need to provide District-prepared meals to the District's students and having Rolling V deliver such meals on established routes accomplished this goal. By using Rolling V to transport meals to students' homes, the District was able to comply with Governor Cuomo's Executive Order requiring that schools make meals available to students while remote learning was in place. The District appreciates the hard work of Rolling V's employees who partnered with District staff to help prevent students from going hungry during the period of remote learning.
Unfortunately, the District and Rolling V disagreed about how much Rolling V should be paid to transport meals. The District believed, and continues to believe, that it should not pay Rolling V more to transport meals than it would pay it to transport students under the parties' existing contract. Rolling V took the position that it could charge the District more to transport meals than the contract provides for similar (duration, type of vehicle, route, etc.,) transportation of students.
The District understands that sometimes parties to a contract interpret it differently, particularly when highly unusual circumstances, such as a pandemic, arise. As a result, the District paid, and continues to pay, Rolling V the full amount it sought for transporting meals, but the District did so “under protest.” The District paid Rolling
V the full amount it sought for transporting meals “under protest” so that it was clear that the District was preserving its rights regarding that disagreement. Again, the District believes that Rolling V should have billed it according to the unit costs specified in the existing contract that apply to the transportation of students. The District believes that this is a fair and reasonable position.
In addition to the disagreement about whether Rolling V can charge the District more for transporting meals than it charges for similarly transporting students, the District and Rolling V also have another disagreement. The District believes that its contract with Rolling V requires it to pay specific amounts for specific types of transportation services provided by Rolling V, which amounts are clearly set forth in the contract. As such, if the amount or duration of bus runs increases, then the amount Rolling V would be entitled to be paid goes up according to the applicable unit costs specified in the contract. Similarly, if the number of runs decreases, then the amount payable to Rolling V decreases. This is how the District has always understood the contract to work and believes that this is how it has always been billed. Rolling V has a different view. Rolling V believes that the District is required to pay it as if it is transporting students in the normal, pre-pandemic, fashion, even if Rolling V is not transporting any students at all. As a result, in addition to billing the District for transporting meals since remote learning commenced, Rolling V has also been submitting bills to the District demanding to be paid as if it were transporting students in the normal manner, even though Rolling V is not actually transporting the students to and from school.
Rolling V filed a lawsuit against the District as a result of the disagreements discussed above. Rolling V also announced that it would cease transporting meals or students for the District during the 2020-2021 school year. The District responded to Rolling V's lawsuit by asserting counter-claims against Rolling V, and by asking the Court to compel Rolling V to continue to provide transportation services for the District until the contract expires in June of 2021. The Court has, thus far, granted the District's request for an order compelling Rolling V to continue to provide transportation services for the District, and the District has continued to pay Rolling V to do so. The Court also denied a motion by Rolling V asking it to rule in Rolling V's favor in connection with Rolling V's claim that the District violated the contract with Rolling V.
As indicated above, the District truly appreciates the hard work of Rolling V's staff to continue to provide transportation services for the District. The District and Rolling V have, thus far, been unable to reach an agreement to resolve their disagreements about the proper amounts owed for post-pandemic transportation services. However, with the assistance of a planned Court-facilitated mediation effort, the District remains hopeful that the parties can reach an agreement to resolve their financial disagreements and ensure that the District has necessary transportation arrangements in place.

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