- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—CATAWISSA R.R. — Southern Columbia Area School District has outsourced its transportation services, a move that district personnel said will save district taxpayers at least $830,000 over five years.

During a special meeting Monday, the board voted unanimously to furlough 24 bus drivers effective July 31 and enter into a five-year contract for transportation services with Fullington School Bus LLC, of Clearfield, the following day.

Though the district is technically laying off the drivers, both members of the board and representatives of Fullington School Bus were optimistic few or no drivers would become unemployed.

Board president Michael Yeager said in addition to the routes for the district, the drivers can also ask for other jobs within Fullington’s umbrella company, which includes tour buses and passenger routes that ferry Penn State students between campus and their hometowns.

“The benefit for drivers is huge,” he said. “There’s a lot of opportunity.”

Superintendent Paul Caputo said one of the reasons Fullington School Bus was selected to take over the transportation services was their willingness to continue employing the districts’ drivers.

“They had the most to offer our employees,” he said.

Jonathan Berzes, CEO of Fullington School Bus, said he isn’t sure exactly how many of the drivers the company would take on because he had to calculate routes and what hours each employee wanted to work. He said it isn’t outside the realm of possibility for the company to take on all the district drivers.

“We always have spare drivers,” he said. “It just depends on the work.”

Berzes said the drivers would make comparable salaries at his company, though the wages are calculated differently with more weight on bonuses for behaviors like retention instead of flat hourly rates.

Thirty-three drivers showed up for a meeting with Fullington School Bus’s human resources team held Monday afternoon, Berzes said.

Board member Charles Porter said an agreement with the drivers’ union, AFSCME, will allow members to “bump” for positions. With this system, laid off workers will be placed on a list according to seniority and hired into AFSCME positions, even though not all jobs available for members of this union are bus drivers.

“Some of the people affected may not be bus drivers,” he said of the future.

Porter credited Attorney Carl Beard, who worked with the district on its recent negotiations with the teachers union, with the smooth transition to the outsourced system.

“He has guarded this district and given us sound advice in negotiations,” he said.

As part of the agreement, Fullington School Bus will lease the district’s bus garage and equipment.

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