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Bus drivers' meeting dead end

August 21, 2000

Bus drivers' meeting dead end



By TARA REILLY / Staff Writer


What the Washington County School Bus Contractor's Association hoped would be a chance to discuss contracts with the Washington County Board of Education turned out to be a dead end Monday night.

No School Board administrators or elected members showed up at the school system's central office on Commonwealth Avenue to hear concerns from about 35 contractors in attendance.

"For them to ignore us like that is wrong, period," Todd Hoffman, a school bus contractor said. "We're a savings to the county and they don't appreciate it."

The School Board contracts with 41 contractors, who provide and staff 64 buses. The drivers own the buses and are paid hourly wages, reimbursement for purchasing their buses and fuel and maintenance costs.

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The contractors, who are paid $13.88 an hour, say the School Board is paying them below the state average in school bus reimbursement and in fuel and maintenance costs. They are asking the board to bring them up to state averages for the 2001-02 school year.

According to contractors, the state average reimbursed to independent bus owners is $10,112 a year for 12 years. Washington County pays an average of $8,480 a year for 12 years. The amount is broken into monthly installments. Contractors get reimbursed 10 months a year and do not get paid two months in the summer. They are reimbursed for 12 years, because that's how long the state allows a bus to be in service.

Contractors said they fear the reimbursable amount will remain the same in future years, even though the cost of buses will rise, as it did from 1993 to 1998.

They said they are reimbursed 67 cents a mile for fuel and maintenance, which is 9 cents a mile less than the state average of 76 cents.

"All we're asking for is a simple request to bring us up to state average, just so we can make a decent wage," said Terry Hovermale, head of the contractors association.

Hovermale said the association will meet in September to draft a contract and discuss its next move. One contractor asked if a "sit-out" would be in future plans, but the group's lawyer said that has not been discussed.

"I certainly hope it never comes to that," Brett Wilson, the association's lawyer said. "But if push comes to shove, it's certainly something that you can do."

Reached at home after the meeting, School Board President Paul Bailey said elected members didn't attend because of their policy not to sit in on contract negotiations with any group.

He said Chris Carter, head of the transportation department, sent a letter to the association saying he couldn't make the meeting. Bailey said he thought other administrators would attend.

He said he couldn't comment on the association's requests because he has had limited contact with the contractors.

Wilson said he's not sure if requesting another meeting with the School Board will get results since there has been no response yet.

"The Board of Education has never negotiated with the School Bus Contractors Association and does not intend to do so in the future," Wilson said.

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