Bus company proposes raises for its drivers

Cedar Grove-Belgium School District considers renegotiating final year of Johnson Bus contract

By MITCH MAERSCH

Ozaukee Press staff

Johnson Bus wants to give its drivers raises to make it more competitive with area companies, and it’s asking the Cedar Grove-Belgium School District to take on some of the cost.

Joe Minton, director of operations for Johnson Bus, presented his proposal to the School Board last month.

“Pay is where we’re running into the problems,” he said.

The company pays drivers $16.23 per hour.

Competitors pay more. Random Lake’s hourly rate is $23, Riteway’s is $20 to $22 and Prigge’s is $18.

The goal, Minton said, is to pay $20 per hour.

“That’s a 23.23% increase,” he said, adding it would help retain staff members.

“Our main concern isn’t bringing new people on; we have our routes covered. It’s losing our people to the Random Lakes or these other competing organizations.”

If the company does lose a driver, the higher pay rate would allow Johnson Bus to recruit a high-level applicant, Minton said.

The company’s contract with the district, which expires June 30, 2023, caps pay increases at the Consumer Price Index of 5%.

The company is asking the district to pay for 4% of the increase, which would directly pass to the drivers, Minton said, and is still less than the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) of 9.4% as of March.

The company would absorb 61.3% of the raise.

That would increase the district’s daily route rate of $314.80 to $343.13, and the mid-day rate from $59.73 to $65.11.

The total cost for the 2022-23 school year would be $394,194.

That doesn’t include other busing charges. Athletic busing was $37,000 for 2021-22, Business Manager Tera Rogers said. Field trip costs are covered by fees charged to families, she said.

Charges for diesel fuel to run the buses have gone up as well. The district has paid nearly $9,000 in surcharges since January, Rogers said.

Fuel prices are $2.50 per gallon in the contract.

“We don’t make any money off of fuel,” Minton said.

Rogers is working with Johnson Bus to renegotiate the final year of the contract.

“If we get to a point where renegotiating early makes sense, then she will present a recommendation to the board,” Supt. Chad Brakke said.

The board could see that proposal at its Aug. 10 meeting.

Otherwise, the contract terms remain in place for the final year.

Johnson Bus also proposed a contract extension that continues to cap CPI at 5%. Most new contracts, Minton said, are removing the cap or raising it to 7.5% to 10%.

The rate would be lower than other bids across the state that have increased 12% to 25%, he said. Most of that is due to increased maintenance costs, which rose by more than 60% this year.

“We obviously don’t see that declining anytime soon,” Minton said.

The company has 10 drivers who are all Cedar Grove or Belgium residents, Minton said.

The company runs 12 morning and 12 afternoon routes, and four mid-day routes that transport more than 400 students each day.

“Unlike many of our competitors, we have not left you guys with any open routes and most importantly, no missed or declined trips. I know it’s been a big problem for a lot of districts,” Minton said.

Buses drove 93,000 miles for the 2021-22 school year and had no preventable accidents. An Amazon truck once backed into a bus, but nobody was injured.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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