Champlain Civil Service Employees Association drivers from the Northeastern Clinton, Beekmantown, Peru and Chazy central school districts, among others, stood outside the NCCS building Oct. 4 wearing signs asking for the school board to keep school bus drivers local.
Standing alongside the drivers were parents, students, and taxpayers alike all asking the board of education to vote against bringing in a private company to take over school bus routes.
The school board and a subcommittee met last week with First Student, a private bus company based out of Cincinnati, Ohio, to receive a free cost analysis.
“It’s a slow process; there is nothing that is going to happen immediately,” NCCS Superintendent Peter Turner said. “We’re nowhere near a price; they explained the services that they offer but it’s going to take a couple of months to estimate what the potential savings might be.”
Residents and employees worry this change could cost about 50 bus driver, mechanical and bus monitor positions and leave the district with no bus fleet.
“We do not want out kids driven by a contract company and we have a petition signed by 374 people that agree with us,” said Emy L. Pombrio, staff lawyer for the union.
According to school board president Daniel Letourneau, the board has been weighing its options to prevent a deficit in the school budget with the 2 percent tax cap.
“The board has not agreed to fire bus drivers or sell our fleet,” Letourneau said. “But, we all agree it is our responsibility to talk to the company about how much it would cost if we went that way so we can compare to our present spending.”
Turner said the three most significant factors that made the board want to look at current spending and possible areas to save is the rising cost of health insurance, retirement, and wages being paid for the part-time employment of the bus drivers.