Members of the Palatine Township Elementary District 15 transportation department are livid they'll soon receive layoff notices, calling the action premature and based on inaccurate information.
The school board Wednesday voted 4-0, with three members abstaining, to move forward with a reduction in force, or "RIF," of the district's roughly 200 bus drivers and aides.
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Board President Tim Millar said the notices are necessary because the state requires written notice of possible layoffs at least 90 days in advance.
The move comes as the board continues to explore outsourcing busing. At the same time, contentious negotiations with the transportation union over a new contract, to replace one that expires June 30, have been postponed until mid-April.
"This action does not mean that any transportation employee will be laid off," Millar said. "That will depend on the outcome of the negotiation and bidding processes."
The pink slips can be rescinded, Millar said, if a new collective bargaining agreement is reached or "meaningful negotiations" are in progress.
Board members Peggy Babcock, Rich Bokor and Gerard Iannuzzelli abstained, citing a lack of information on the bid process.
The district recently rejected two bids from private transportation companies First Student and Durham, saying they weren't in compliance with the public bidding law. Any new bids to come in through a second round will be opened at the 11 a.m. Friday deadline.
For the third time in the last four regular board meetings, several bus drivers and supporters Wednesday implored the board to keep transportation in-house. They also criticized how the district has handled negotiations, especially its Feb. 28 email rebuttal to the union going public with the district's contract proposal.
Bus driver Herb Rocha, who's among the roughly 75 percent of transportation workers to live in District 15, said the $3.3 million savings shown over a three-year period in Durham's original bid was misleading because it incorrectly assumed certain items, such as nearly $1.9 million in management fees, were reimbursable from the state.
Going with either of the two companies, based on the original bids, actually would cost District 15 between $1.7 million and $1.9 million more than operating internally, Rocha said.
Union President Carin Ulrich said Thursday representatives with the Illinois State Board of Education have confirmed the union's estimate. She said the union "begged" Millar and the district to sit down together to analyze the bids before presenting them to the public.
"We said it's wrong, but they refused," Ulrich said. "They've had their blinders on. They will not listen. Then they'll twist things around to make it sound like the drivers and aides aren't being reasonable."
Assistant Superintendent Mike Adamczyk said he hasn't looked at the union's analysis of the bids because he's waiting for the new bids. He stands behind the district's original analysis showing $3.3 million in savings.
"It's subject to interpretation, and they're looking at things differently," Adamczyk said. "What really matters is the figures (on Friday). We'll take a look and do a new evaluation."
No bids had come in as of Thursday afternoon, he said.