Thursday, June 10, 2004

Lakota OKs raises, reviews buses

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

LIBERTY TOWNSHIP - Bus drivers and aides in Lakota Schools will receive a 50-cent-per-hour pay raise even as educators review proposals from two companies interested in taking over district transportation.

This week the board approved a three-year master contract with its 220 drivers and aides, retroactive to July 2003. The contract was overwhelmingly approved with only one person casting a no ballot when the contract was presented, said Steve Scarth, business manager for Teamsters Local 100, which represents Lakota's bus drivers and aides.

An evaluation of proposals from Laidlaw Transit and Petermann LLC will continue.

"An evaluation is not the same as a recommendation," board president Joan Powell reminded the bus drivers and aides who attended the board meeting.

A committee made up of board members, administrators and two bus drivers has met once and will meet again next week.

"We're taking their proposals and our costs and trying to match them up," said Alan Hutchinson, the district treasurer who sits on the committee. "There are some significant differences and we're trying to reconcile those."This year the district budgeted $9.2 million for transportation, which didn't include this week's approval to buy 10 additional buses, Hutchinson said. Those buses are needed to transport an expected 350 or more new students, said Doug Lantz, Lakota business manager.

Bus driver and Lakota parent Angela Seebohl presented the board with petitions signed by 900 parents who don't want bus service contracted out.

"In my heart I think it's (privatization) the wrong decision for the children," said Harry Cordell, who lives in Liberty Township but teaches in a neighboring district.

A decision is expected later this month.

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