RPS board meeting talks money

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(ABC 6 News) – Rochester Public School Board had big decisions on Tuesday night’s meeting agenda about how money could flow in and out of the district next school year.

Regarding how money will be dished out, the board discussed possible changes to the transportation contract, set to be voted on at the next meeting.

The district contracts its bus drivers through the company First Student. They’re asking for a 29.5% price increase for the 2024-2025 school year.

The district was able to negotiate this down from the original request of 32.25%, but if the contract is passed, it will cost the district an extra $3 million in transportation costs on top of the $10 million they currently spend.

Bus drivers would see some of that money, with an increase in wages somewhere between $1-3 more per hour. They would also see their guaranteed work hours increase to seven hours, up from the current five and a half.

The deal would allow the contract to be renegotiated if there’s a significant change in the need for transportation services.

Superintendent Kent Pekel, who recommends the new contract, says it’s important bus drivers feel valued and are taken care of.

“It’s a significant increase at a time when we are being very, very, very efficient with our spending, so it’s not something I’d recommend lightly, but it’s what we’re gonna need to do to get ahead of some of the driver shortage problem,” said Pekel.

As for how the money would come back into the district, board members voted to approve the district’s preliminary tax levy amount for next year.

It is currently set at 3.9%, as opposed to last year’s increase of 4.7%.

However, there is still room for that to change. A special session on December 12 will allow the public an opportunity to comment on the proposed levy.

District leaders say the tax base continues to grow in Rochester, so the impact on taxpayers would be minimal. Therefore, Pekel doesn’t anticipate much pushback from the community.