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Ypsilanti Public Schools' Board of Education will be holding a special meeting next month to consider the decision to adopt a county-wide bus consolidation plan.
The Willow Run School District signed on to a countywide consolidated transportation plan at their regular board meeting last week.
The plan aims to save transportation costs for all participating Washtenaw County school districts by standardizing buses and parts, streamlining routes, centralizing administration and routing technology, and controlling personnel costs. The program will be under the umbrella of Washtenaw Intermediate School District.
Officials at Willow Run expect to save $250,000 by joining the consolidation. Ultimately, the savings will depend on how many districts decide to join.
One contentious point in the plan is that there is no guarantee that WISD will re-hire all current Willow Run transportation staff. AFSCME, the bargaining unit for Willow Run's current transportation staff, submitted a demand to bargain to the board last week.
The resolution that the board passed acknowledges the local labor group's right to negotiate with the district before they implement the plan.
“We gave them a letter that said we know that you have the right to bargain and actually put a bid out there,” said Willow Run Superintendent Laura Lisiscki. “We absolutely want to do that. You just tell us when and where, and we will be there.”
When the union submits their bid the board will negotiate with them and reconsider joining the county-wide plan.
Willow Run Trustee Don Garrett, Jr. raised other questions about the new transportation plan during the meeting, including whether or not bus drivers would be full-time employees and whether they would be paid for wait times on field trips.
“I would anticipate that those jobs are going to be full-time jobs with full-time benefits,” said Bert Emerson, the Willow Run director of business services, who has been part of the planning process for the transportation plan, but noted he was not a labor attorney. “Certainly, the conversation has implied that the people who are working for the partners—all the school districts in the county that join the consortium—will certainly have advantages in jobs. We anticipate that most of them will have jobs with this new entity.”
Emerson also said that in order to comply with state and federal labor regulations, drivers would have to be paid something during their wait time on field trips, although perhaps it would not be as much as they get paid for the time they are driving.
The WISD has said it plans to pay drivers a base wage of $13.00, with a $0.25 increase for each year of experience. The plan would see employees pay 30 - 10 percent of their monthly premium based on full-time and part-time employment status.
The monthly premiums are estimated to cost $289 for a single employee and $839 for a family. The monthly premium for dental, vision, life and disability coverage is expected to cost $129. WISD employees would have a $2,000 deductible for singles and a $4,000 deductible for families. Finally employees would have a prescription co-pay at $10 for generic and $40 for brand-name drugs.
"It's my understanding that certainly those people have a right to unionize, and one anticipates and I think that Washtenaw Intermediate School District anticipates that by the end of the day on the first day, there's going to be a petition to organize and a new collective bargaining group," Emerson said. "Whatever terms were offered on day one presumably will be subject to negotiations on the end of the day on day one."
All Willow Run trustees approved the plan, except for Anglesia Brown, who was not present.
Ypsilanti discusses county school bus consolidation