The Almont school board has voted to hire Dean Transportation in what school officials hope is a major cost-savings effort. The vote was made Thursday evening, despite previous pleas from district bus drivers to not hire Dean. Current drivers offered to take major concessions to provide a savings of what they said would have been around $109,000 dollars.
In an email to Sanilac Broadcasting, Superintendent Dr. William Kalmar said, “the motion to hire Dean Transportation passed with a 4-1 vote with one abstention (a member whose wife works in transportation) and one member absent (he was on a long-planned vacation in Europe). “
Dr. Kalmar said his recommendation to the Board of Education to privatize busing was not an easy one. “It really came down to three key factors,” he explained. “We have a nationwide driver shortage and we have been unable to attract drivers to fill retirements. Dean can provide a much more competitive wage structure.”
The Superintendent stated, “Additionally, Dean will offer to hire all of our current drivers at the same salary, same wages, provide life insurance, health care and a safe harbor matching 401K. It is very rare that I can make a choice which does not financially hurt our employees!”
Dr. Kalmar said the last reason was, “we felt the need to move forward with this choice is due to state funding. According to the Detroit News Michigan is dead last for school funding. The Almont Community Schools is projecting a decline in enrollment in the next five years and, at present funding, we will be looking at a one million dollar shortfall in our school budget. Privatizing our busing will save us almost a million dollars over the next five years, and help us keep our classrooms intact!”
Almont bus drivers had offered wage and benefit concessions to help with district budget issues, but Dr. Kalmar felt the projected savings with Dean was something that will benefit the students, staff and district.