Local News

March 29, 2013

School official: Decision on Murray bus line delayed

Drivers guaranteed one year of employment regardless

CHATSWORTH — Going through proposals to possibly privatize the Murray County Schools bus line will take until at least May before any decisions are made, said one school official.

Danny Dunn, human resources director, said school administrators decided to move their deadline from April 15 to May 13 so school officials could “carefully review” bids from three private companies — First Students, Durham School Services and Student Transportation of America — to outsource some of the system’s transportation services.

“The purpose behind requesting these bids goes back to the increasing benefits and health care costs that the school system has to pay (mandated by the state Department of Education),” Dunn said. “This year it went up about $150 for each bus driver. It will go up $150 next year and the year after that it will go up again. We have 300-400 classified (non-teaching) employees. That’s a significant increase (total benefit costs were about $800,000 for 2013). So we’re looking at where we can save with a private company.”

Several school bus drivers said they’re concerned about their job security, but wouldn’t go on the record because they are afraid of a backlash for talking openly with the media.

According to the Request for Proposals (RFP), drivers already working for the school system would be guaranteed one year of employment with the private company, and drivers who have worked in the school system for 10 years or more would be kept on the school system payroll and continue to get state benefits as long as they are in good standing.

 What happens to those bus drivers at the end of their first year working with the private company?

“The decision making goes to the (private company),” Dunn said. “If the contractor thinks they can get by with 60 drivers and we have 63 drivers ... there could be cuts. We usually have normal attrition ... drivers who leave on their own. So that might not ever be a problem anyways.”

If a private company is selected, it won’t be for “the whole shebang,” Dunn added.

“The overview of the RFP provides for employee management and training for the drivers already in our school system,” Dunn said. “This does not include keeping the state benefits that bus drivers and bus monitors are eligible for (unless they’ve worked in the system for 10 years) ... we’re also not interested in turning over our fleet or management of our fleet. We’re interested in avoiding those heavy benefit increases that we can’t control.”

Dunn was quick to “emphasize” no decision has been made and the committee that will review each proposal before submitting a recommendation to school board members “hasn’t even been formed.”

“The review committee — once formed — will probably consist of me, Steve Loughridge (school finance director), Vickie Reed (superintendent) and the transportation directors (Johnny Ward and Terry Crump),” Dunn said. “If we find the financial savings are not to be found then we won’t even bring the proposal(s) before the school board ... we will carefully review this and balance the needs of our current drivers, monitors and the system as a whole. Then decide if we want to make a recommendation.”

If the committee makes a recommendation it will likely be voted on at the May 13 school board meeting. School board meetings are held at the central office at 1006 Green Road and typically begin at 6 p.m.

Several school board members said they couldn’t speak about the situation with authority until the review committee has made a recommendation.

“I just need to see what the money situation is,” school board member Frank Adams said. “I’ll approve their recommendation to privatize if there’s significant savings ... the proposal would have to come in under what we’re paying now or there’s no point in it ... It would appear to me that they (a private company) would want to use the current drivers (beyond their guaranteed year) based on their familiarity and because they’re already in place — they know the routes.”

Dunn said the discussion between school bus drivers and administrators “has been cordial.”

“The superintendent has invited drivers to discuss questions and concerns,” he said. “We’ve met with four drivers and a monitor. They can call and set up a time to talk with us. This is not going to be a situation where our bus drivers have a job one day and don’t have a job the next.”

Whitfield County Schools officials were also looking to save money by privatizing their bus line, but stopped short of publishing an RFP in October after several bus drivers complained. Dalton Public Schools privatized its bus system several years ago and uses First Student.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Longtime Dalton business Green Spot to close

    Larry Green says he made the decision more than a year ago.

    July 29, 2014

  • Kiwanis Club3.jpg Kiwanians get a lesson in money and banking

    Money.
    It makes it easier for us to buy and sell goods and services. It is the measure by which we judge the relative value of those goods and services, and it allows us to “store value,” by placing it away and using it when we need it.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sheriff: Inmates don’t ask to vote

    In his 21 years of service, Whitfield County Sheriff Scott Chitwood said inmates have never asked for the opportunity to vote.

    July 28, 2014

  • Little library 1 mlh.jpg Little Libraries, big goal

    Whitfield County just received a new library.
    And better yet, 26 more are on the way to the region.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Picture 3.jpg Rock solid

    A great number of things have come and gone since 1974.
    One that hasn’t: a small Dalton school founded by parents wanting a unique learning environment for their children.

    July 27, 2014 2 Photos

  • Vann House Day '14 6 mlh.jpg History comes alive at Vann House

    SPRING PLACE — In the early 1800s, the 1,000-acre plantation belonging to Cherokee Indian leader James Vann was a bustling place.

    July 26, 2014 5 Photos

  • Local officials agree with Deal

    Regarding news last week that approximately 30 unaccompanied minors from Central America, who had crossed the southern border into the United States, were sent without warning to Dalton last year and enrolled in Dalton Public Schools, Republican politicians representing portions of Murray and Whitfield Counties agree — state and local school officials deserved to know in advance, they say.

    July 26, 2014

  • Former chamber location 2 mlh.jpg Plan could cut flooding, stormwater damage in Dalton

    On a recent day, McClellan Creek flowed gently through Harlan Godfrey Civitan Park. But some park goers who live near the area say that even a mild rain can turn the creek into a torrent that eats away at their property.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Civil War anniversary: The Battle of Crow Valley, May 9-12, 1864

    The Atlanta Campaign began during the first two weeks of May 1864 in and around Dalton. Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s strategy was to target two of his armies, about 80,000 men, against Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s Army of Tennessee at Dalton. Then, while Johnston’s attention was diverted by these forces, he would secretly send his third army, about 25,000 troops under Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson, in a flanking movement to the southwest through Snake Creek Gap. Sherman’s goal was to break Johnston’s railroad supply line some 15 miles south at Resaca and trap Johnston’s Confederates in Dalton.

    July 26, 2014

  • New church being  built mlh.jpg Church construction continues

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo