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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 special meeting will be held June 7, after the board's meeting Monday night, when it took no action on a resolution committing to the Washtenaw Intermediate School District's plan to reduce busing costs throughout the county.
“I would like a chance to digest (the proposal),” Trustee Sarah Devaney said after a a presentation on the proposal from the WISD.
Already approved by Willow Run Community Schools, the WISD is proposing a plan to take over busing in all of the county's 10 school districts to cut costs through consolidating administrative fuel, maintenance and routing costs while keeping the service publicly funded to avoid privatization.
If YPS adopts the proposed five-year contract, it can expect approximately $1.25 million in savings with no changes to service next year. $934,000 of that savings is realized through the plan's lower wage and smaller benefits package for transportation employees.
Jim Regan, of Transportation Strategies LLC, said 78 percent of the district's transportation costs are wages and benefits. He said this area of the budget would have to see more cuts because it is the largest part of the budget.
Ypsilanti bus drivers would make an average of $14.95 an hour though the WISD plan. They currently make an average wage of $18.13. Mechanics, who currently earn an average wage of $23.29, would make $21 an hour at the WISD. Bus aides in Ypsilanti currently earn an average of $12.92 and would earn $11.46 an hour at the WISD.
While transportation employees contribute nothing to their medical coverage in Ypsilanti, the WISD's 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.
“If the board wants to lower their savings number, they can contribute more to health care,” Regan said.
However, WISD Assistant Superintendent Brian Marcel said a legal opinion would have to be given on how such a scenario would work.
During their presentation, the two WISD representatives said the wage and benefits packages were chosen based on comparing districts in the county, state and national level with private providers throughout the region.
If YPS were to adopt the plan, the presenters at Monday night's meeting said employees would all have the opportunity to be hired by the WISD. They said less than 10 percent of district employees throughout the county would be laid off. Employees would lose their seniority if hired by the WISD, but wages would be based on experience.
Employees would keep their pensions if hired by the WISD, something the presenters said would not happen if the district adopted a private plan.
“The goal is to maintain that working cadre in each district,” Regal said.
He said the only reason an Ypsilanti employee wouldn't be hired was if he or she failed a drug test , background check or some other regulation.
Though the estimated savings for next year did not include changes to routes or service, the presenters said there would likely be changes to routes and service levels in the future to make the system more efficient. Setting a half-mile walking distance per stop for all students and reconfiguring routes so buses traveled a smaller distance with no passengers were some of the steps suggested.
Trustee Kira Berman said her kindergarten student, and all others in the district, is picked up at their home. She said the potential changes communicated during the presentation would amount to a service reduction.
“That's a long way for a 4-year-old,” she said.
The presenters pointed out that the half-mile distance would be a maximum to set routes in future years, and if the district wanted to adopt a different policy it could. However, the WISD would likely increase the cost to the district if it were to make set different requirements.
The cost to the district in the WISD proposal would be determined 30 days after the beginning of school, as there are usually some changes to the routes during the start of the school year.
Emma Jackson, YPS director of public relations, said the WISD hopes to have a decision from districts in the county by June, but said representatives from the organization said the June 7 decision would be acceptable.