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Many of the same drivers return to district bus routes

Outsourced bus drivers will include previous employees

August 21, 2013 - Goodrich- When many of the more than 1,000 district students get on the bus on Sept. 3—they should see a familiar face behind the wheel.

About 10 of the 15 drivers that were released earlier this year by the district have reapplied and were hired by Portland-based Michigan Education Transportation Services (METS). In June the school board OK'd a three-year contract with METS in a budget-saving measure.

"METS offered the most opportunity for savings," said Scott Bogner, district superintendent. "Not only are many of the drivers returning, but also the subs (substitute drivers) will also be familiar. The drivers are familiar with the routes. Our goal is for district families not to see much difference at all in the bus service."

Earlier this year school officials advertised for outsourcing the 15 bus drivers for the district to help contend, in part, with nearly a $900,000 budget deficit. By mid-summer about $750,000 has been cut from the budget and school officials anticipate dipping into the fund equity, leaving about 8.34 percent at the end of the 2012-13 fiscal year this month. The district also laid-off seven teachers (staff) and five other employees during the past school year. In addition, other concessions were made regarding wages and benefits of employee groups. The fund equity is the excess of the district assets above its liabilities (what the district owns minus what it owes). While cash is an asset, it's only one of many of an institution's assets. Others include: accounts receivable, prepaid expenses, supplies, equipment and buildings.

"The safety of the children is paramount," he added. "We'll make some changes in routing and a reduction in some of the bus stops. We'll be asking for a single pickup stop to improve efficiency."

Bogner also said that video cameras are under consideration by the board.

"School buses are one of only environments where there is only one adult for 60 students," he said. "Four cameras on the bus can see a lot—it's a safety issue."

In addition, in April the board approved a bid from the Holland Bus Company for $388,500 for the purchase of six used buses. The district had five school buses that are at least 15-years-old and a new bus has not been purchased since the 2007-2008 school year. In the past, the district had a schedule to replace buses on a regular basis. The buses will be financed for five years, taking advantage of the low interest rates currently available.

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