Nearly 30 bus drivers will lose their jobs this summer as Vandalia-Butler City Schools prepares to outsource busing to Cincinnati-based First Student Inc.
On Tuesday, four of five members of the Vandalia-Butler City Schools Board of Education voted in favor of the school district entering into a five-year contract with First Student to provide student transportation. Board member Mary Kilsheimer was not at Tuesday’s meeting, which lasted less than 20 minutes.
Superintendent Brad Neavin said outsourcing bus services is an attempt to save the district up to $1.4 million in the first year, and about $208,000 each year after that.
“Our buses have continued to pass inspection over the years, but it’s getting more and more difficult for them to pass,” Neavin said. “So, that was one of the issues, looking at how we can start to replace buses that are aging within our district and doing it in a way that is financially feasible.”
Neavin added that the district will get some new buses. “Part of the savings that we will incur during the first year will come from First Student purchasing our fleet and then they will phase the buses in,” he said.
The district is facing a $4 million deficit and will be placing a 6.99-mill operating levy on the November ballot.
“We’ve had three failed levies. Certainly, that’s impacted our district,” said Paula Yablonski, president of the Vandalia-Butler Education Association. “Cost-savings have to be done and transportation and the equity in the buses are quick ways to get some money.”
Neavin said the district’s bus drivers will have the opportunity for employment through First Student.
“They will remain on what is called a RIF (Reduction in Force) list, maintaining their senority to the school district over the next several years,” Neavin said. “So if a couple of years down the road, we decide to break ties with First Student, our drivers still hold their standing through the RIF process.”
“Some of our drivers are upset obviously because it does change what they work for,” Yablonski said. “Some of our drivers are going to be losing their health insurance. Obviously, they are going to be losing their sick days, personal days and they are uncertain of what’s going to happen with this new company.”
She added that she doesn’t think the district’s bus drivers that will be hired by First Student will be represented by a union.
“My goal right now is to work with the administration to ensure that our drivers get priority in getting hired, that there is not going to be a lapse in their medical insurance,” Yablonski said. “And just try to make transition for our drivers as easy as possible.”