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Planned Boost to School Bus Driver Pay Raises Budget Concerns in Council

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The city is planning to give some school bus drivers a big raise, though it's not clear exactly where the money will come from. The plan would give drivers what they failed to win at the bargaining table. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

Back in February of 2013, a yellow bus strike left 150,000 students without a ride to school for more than a month.

Now, the city is planning to give the drivers, chaperons and mechanics back what they lost in their fight with former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, higher pay and seniority protections.

"What we're doing here is an attempt to clean up what was not done right and did not treat our city employees in a fair and equitable manner," said City Councilman Daniel Dromm.

School bus staffers are not city employees, though; they work for private companies.

The de Blasio administration wants the city to give some of those companies extra grants, on top of what the city is contracted to pay them. That money, up to $42 million this year, can be used to supplement drivers' and chaperons' salaries and hire more experienced workers.

"That action is taken to make sure we have experienced veteran drivers and matrons who know how to keep our kids safe,” the mayor said.

The mayor's office says it doesn't have statistics to back up the safety concerns, but officials say they know experience matters—especially when working with students with special needs.

In a hearing Tuesday, though, some City Council members expressed concern.

"A program that has a $42 million price tag six weeks after we pass the budget appears to me to be something we probably should have been talking about in our budget negotiations," City Councilman Daniel Garodnick said.

"Are you saying that there are going to be no cuts to any programs?" said City Councilman Jumaane Williams

The Department of Education says it can pay for the program through November with funds reserved for emergencies like Hurricane Sandy.

After November, there's no clear word on where the money will come from.

Another concern Council Members raised was how quickly this is being pushed through.

The mayor's office first mentioned the plan last Thursday and now this Thursday, just seven days later, the full council is now set to vote on it.

At Tuesday's hearing, one Council member expressed concern the plan may even go against the state constitution.

The de Blasio administration says it's legal.

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