UCPS votes to keep vehicle take-home program

Feb. 11, 2013 @ 06:06 PM

After a 20-week pilot program, Union County Public Schools has decided to continue to allow maintenance workers to take their vehicles home. 

The board voted unanimously to end the pilot program, though they are continuing to look into options to save money.

Board member Kevin Stewart said in an interview they are looking at cluster assignments and making sure that employees are based near the schools they serve. They are also looking at replacing vehicles through attrition with more efficient vehicles, the possibility of using GPS–either in cell phones or through a black box system–to make sure the vehicles are being used for work purposes.  

The take-home vehicles for maintenance workers became a point of contention during last year's budget debates. 

The trial used two clusters, the Parkwood and special schools clusters (Team 1) and the Forest Hills and Monroe clusters (Team 4). 

Team 1 was allowed to take vehicles home and Team 4 was not. 

By not taking home their vehicles, Team 4 used 1,185 fewer gallons of gas, saving about $3,188. 

However, the school system spent $2,227 on vandalism and theft for the Team 4 vehicles. The lost production, on windshield, time cost $13,081. 

The report, presented to the school board last Tuesday, said that Union County Public Schools spent $12,066 to not home garage vehicles for one team. 

If the system opted to not home garage vehicles for all nine teams, it would cost about $282,357.

"In our opinion, the greatest incentives to not home garaging vehicles are that we will be losing more than 18,000 man-hours sitting behind steering wheels rather than doing our job in the schools; and we will not have the ability to answer after-hours' emergency calls efficiently," the memo from Mike Webb, associate superintendent of building operations, read.

The audit performed last year said maintenance costs could be an issue with taking vehicles home. 

Team 1, which took vehicles home, saw $1,675.51 in maintenance costs and Team 4, which did not take their vehicles, saw $1,758.30 in maintenance costs. 

Another issue the pilot project revealed was an additional cost in order to remain compliant with the federal fair labor standards act (FLSA).

Under the act, the system would have to pay employees to be on-call and will have to start paying overtime for after-hours emergencies, rather than accruing compensatory time, the report said. 

"The good thing about the...study was that a lot of these things had never been put under the magnifying glass before," Stewart said. 

Stewart said he was "somewhat surprised" that is was more of a detriment that an asset to park the vehicles. He was also surprised by the FLSA act restrictions. 

The board and staff will look at other areas to be good shepherds of the taxpayer's money, Stewart said.