Judge dismisses Central Point school bus lawsuit

A Jackson County Circuit Court judge has dismissed a lawsuit claiming the Central Point School District did not conduct a proper cost analysis before contracting out its student bus services.

In a summary judgment issued Monday, Judge Ron Grensky ruled the district had conducted a satisfactory cost analysis that complied with state statutes, a news release from the district said.

The statute says cost analyses must show contracting out will result in actual savings to wages, benefits, materials and miscellaneous costs in the school district.

Former district bus driver Stephanie Hicks brought the lawsuit against the district in July 2011. The district had moved to contract bus services with First Student Inc. the month before. Mike Meunier, district director of human resources, said the district's bus fleet was old, and that purchasing new buses would have meant cuts to other areas in the budget.

"It would have been layoffs of teachers, increased class size, elimination of programs," Meunier said. "That's basically where we were at. We were in cut mode."

District officials said originally that contracting out the service would save about $50,000 in salaries and benefits and $380,000 in avoiding new bus purchases, plus savings in material costs.

Meunier said the district estimates it will save as much as $500,000 for the 2011-12 school year.

Oregon School Employees Association officials, who supported Hicks in the case, said the analysis and savings estimates were flawed. They also alleged not all of the 38 drivers who previously worked for the district were hired by First Student, a condition the district set in its contract with the company. When the lawsuit was filed, they also maintained First Student did not pay wages comparable to what the district had been paying.

OSEA officials could not be reached for comment on the case's outcome.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at rpfeil@mailtribune.com

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