On Monday, Monroe County Schools announced they would be accepting applications for all bus routes. Contractors told 10News the district isn’t offering enough to stay afloat.
MONROE COUNTY, Tennessee — For half a century, the Cooley Bus Service has transported Monroe County students to and from school. They don’t know what to do this year.
“We’ve been loyal to this county for 50 years. We’ve worked and worked and worked and worked,” said Scott Harold, who helps his wife’s family run the business. “We just feel like we’ve just been shut down and nobody wants to listen to us.”
He had hoped their longstanding loyalty to Monroe County schools would pay off in negotiations this summer. However, he and a number of other contractors were disappointed with the district’s offer.
“We don’t earn anything,” said James Miles, who typically manages three routes for the district. “Our contractors haven’t had a raise in over 20 years.”
Miles said the new contract would be for 2 years instead of 4 years, which would make it difficult to get loans.
The old contract called for a monthly stipend of $400 per bus and approximately $1.38 per seat per bus per day.
The new contract would remove that allowance in exchange for raising that salary per seat to $1.71.
“Moving [the stipend] paying seat salary is an insult to us,” Miles said. “In the 8 years that my wife and I have been doing this, we just haven’t seen any appreciation.”
Miles said the new contract would increase monthly pay per bus by $16 to $120 if it had 72 or more seats.
However, he said the salary for a 66-passenger bus would drop by about $20 a month. A 25-passenger bus would earn about $255 less under the new contract.
“We need to be paid more for what we do,” he said. “We have about a 30% to 35% increase in our parts, labor, tires, whatever we buy…we’re not signing this contract.”
Other entrepreneurs are wondering if it is financially possible to keep their buses running as well.
“We have a floating fuel scale, but it really doesn’t match our fuel costs,” said Larry McCall of McCall Transit. “It’s really a tight deal.”
They told 10News they love their children and drive them to school, but those contracts weren’t enough to make ends meet.
“We’re taking a hit here,” Harold said. “It’s bankrupting us.”
10News has reached out to schools in Monroe County to see if any routes for the upcoming school year are covered and if they are willing to renegotiate approved contracts.
Wednesday evening, 10News had no response.