The Central Bucks School Board on Tuesday unanimously approved an agreement with the district’s transportation union which would lay off at least 44 bus drivers.
Their routes would be picked up by the district’s transportation subcontractor, First Student.
According to the agreement with the Central Bucks Transportation Association, drivers who agree to be laid off or retire before May 30 would receive a $5,000 stipend to help them transition from a district healthcare plan to one of their own, the school district’s labor negotiations attorney, Fred D’Angelo told the board and public on Tuesday.
The base figure of 44 drivers was agreed on after a survey by the drivers’ union and does not figure in any drivers who have yet to make their choice to retire or leave. However, D’Angelo added the drivers would have to submit their resignation by May 30 to be eligible to receive the $5,000.
The district hopes to disband its transportation division and move entirely to outsourcing the transportation of its students within the next five years. D’Angelo said the rising cost of healthcare and pension contributions is the reason behind the move.
"It was no longer sustainable for the district to be in the transportation business,” he said.
The 44 layoffs are projected to save only about $15,000 next year, after the stipends and other factors. But by 2015, the savings is expected to reach more than $1 million in one year alone, according to figures presented to the board. Total savings over next several years was projected at $7.5 million.
Those figures do not factor in money earned from the possible sale of the district’s buses that would not be needed once First Student takes over all the busing responsibilities, school district Business Administrator David Matyas said. First Student already covers half of Central Bucks' bus routes.
While one major issue with the drivers has been settled, the district and the transportation association still are working on terms for a new labor contract. They have been negotiating since January 2011.
“We still have some remaining issues,” D’Angelo told the board, refering to the contract negotiations.
In other business on Tuesday, the district presented an updated version of the 2012-2013 budget.
The proposed $287,238,850 budget puts two administrative staff, 11 professional teaching staff and one support employee out of work. The layoffs would save the district about $800,000. The teachers likely would be laid off from the elementary schools, where enrollment is falling, Maytas said.
Also proposed was a tax increase of 2 mills which would end up costing the average homeowner $80 extra dollars a year. Last year’s increase cost the average homeowner an extra $65 dollars, according to the business administrator.
The tax increase was blamed on declining revenues, decreases in state aid, and increasing personnel costs, Matyas said during a budget presentation.
The final budget will be voted on during next month’s school board meeting.