Board OKs custodial contract, eyes consolidated busing

From AAPSNews Service

The Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education on April 28 approved a contract with AFSCME Local 1182, which represents the district’s custodial and maintenance employees. Under terms of the agreement, employee pay and vacation time will decrease and there will be increases to the bargaining group’s health benefit costs.

School officials Wednesday also received information comparing privatizing transportation services versus participating in a countywide transportation consolidation plan, but no board action was taken. The matter will be considered at a future meeting, possibly as early as May 12.

AFSCME members have approved the agreement, officials said. Without the contract, the district had gone out for bid and was prepared to consider outsourcing custodial and maintenance services. The district will save about $1.8 million with the approved AFSCME contract.

Some highlights of the contract include:
• An 8 percent decrease in wages across-the-board and an additional 46-cent per hour decrease for non-tier two employees. A contract re-opener clause was approved for wage negotiations if the district’s fund balance is in excess of 20 percent of budget and there is an increase of 100 students from within the Ann Arbor district boundaries in the fall count of 2011-12.
• Employees with 4 or 5 weeks of vacation will now receive 3 weeks; employees with 2 or 3 weeks of vacation will receive 2 weeks. Employees will receive 12 days of paid time off that can be used for personal business or sick time.
• Employees will contribute $1,000 per year for a primary plan HMO; other plans will cost $1,000 plus buy-up costs.

In the transportation area, the district is considering a Washtenaw Intermediate School District model to consolidate school busing around the county. Efficiencies such as standardizing buses and fuel, centralizing overhead, optimizing bus routes and looking at budgets for compensation and benefits are part of the plan.

Design of the WISD program is based on countywide participation but each district will determine the extent of its participation. Currently, five districts are considering the consolidation option; savings would increase if more districts participated, officials said.

Under a consolidated plan, drivers and employees in participating districts would work for the WISD.

The Ann Arbor district has obtained bids for privatizing bus service which is being weighed against the consolidated approach. According to Wednesday’s presentation, the district would save up to 18 percent by privatizing and up to 25 percent by participating in the WISD approach.

The district currently spends $8.7 million for transportation, according to the report. Hiring a private company to run the district’s busing operations would cost just over $7 million for Ann Arbor; consolidating with five districts would bring the cost to about $6.5 million.

In a written report to the board, Superintendent Todd Roberts said the consolidated approach makes the most sense. “I believe that consolidating transportation services in the county makes sense not only in the short-term, but I believe that it is the way that we can best maintain high-quality transportation services for students at a sustainable cost without privatizing the service,” he said.

Ann Arbor officials are working to trim $20 million from the school district budget for 2010-11 fiscal year which begins July 1. The school board must approve a balanced budget by the end of June.

For detailed presentations about the AFSCME contract and the comparison between privatizing or consolidating bus service, visit the Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education Web page, and download the PDFs under the April 28 meeting link.

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