Bus drivers fight privatization at Walled Lake schools

Walled Lake schools say privatizing bus service will save district $1.4 million each year; bus drivers say it's not true

WALLED LAKE, Mich. - The battle over the buses is heating up in Walled Lake.

The Walled Lake Consolidated School District is proposing outsourcing its school buses in hopes to save money.

"Here's the issue: We have a $10 million budget deficit. This would save us $1.4 million a year each year over the next three years. We love our drivers. They're outstanding. It's not personal," said Kenneth Gutman, superintendent.

However, bus drivers would be laid off. They argue that they have already given up a lot.

"Three years ago my members took $5 million in cuts to fight off a private company at that point in time," said Ann Ridge, president of the Walled Lake Transportation Association. "They took a 10 percent pay cut. They pay 20 percent toward their health benefits."

Workers also are questioning if privatising would actually save the district some cash. Ridge said the numbers just don't add up.

"Let me say that over, and over, and over again: There is no savings. We welcome the opportunity. Put your numbers up there. Put ours up there. We'll explain our numbers, you explain yours," said Ridge.

Gutman said the numbers are documented and it's obvious the district will save.

"We will save $1.4 ... a little over $1.4 million a year for each of the next three years," he said.

The district is holding a meeting Thursday night to discuss how to move forward and vote.

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