South Colonie bus drivers voice concern over budget cuts

Drivers dropped from full to part time retain their benefits

— Following the resignation of a popular physical education teacher, the focus has shifted from athletics to transportation as bus drivers and parents voiced their concern over the elimination of midday universal pre-kindergarten runs in Colonie.

At the South Colonie Central School District budget hearing Tuesday, May 6, at Saddlewood Elementary School, bus drivers asked the board to reevaluate the cuts to the transportation department.

With a reduction in aid of $2.7 million from last year, Colonie has been forced to make reductions in all departments and, for the first time in five years of having state aid reduced, made cuts to the transportation department.

“We’ve avoided making cuts to transportation that could have been made two or three years ago. We avoided it as long as we could,” said Superintendent Jonathan Buhner.

Although 23 drivers will be reduced to part time status, they will be able to keep their benefits. The drivers are having their hours reduced from eight hours to six hours by eliminating the midday run.

Drivers also expressed concerns that staffing cuts were being made to every other department in the district, while administration has been maintaining their salaries and not cutting anyone.

“You took a 4.5 percent pay raise last year. Basically people are making six figures and now we, as the working hands-on people, are suffering with our jobs,” said veteran bus driver Jack Pulver.

Sherri Fisher, Assistant Superintendent for Management Services and Strategic Planning, said that was not the case.

“You raised this point at the last meeting, and my response to you is that we took a zero percent increase, not the 4.5 percent increase that you maintain. We are cutting administrative positions,” said Fisher.

Pulver insisted the six-figure salary of the administration member being cut this year could be used to pay the salary of a few bus drivers. Buhner explained that the size of the administration has been steadily reduced since the financial hardships for the district began five years ago.

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