With school less than two weeks away, the City Council has passed legislation aimed at compensating experienced bus drivers. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
Days after the mayor's office publicized a plan to give private bus companies up to $42 million to pay their workers more, the City Council passed the bill.
It allows companies to pay workers what they would have received under old bus contracts—before former Mayor Michael Bloomberg rebid the deals, a move that caused a school bus strike in 2013.
Many Council members who voted in favor, though, say they did so despite major concerns.
"In the end, I will vote yes. But I share similar concerns about whether or not this is the correct route to go," said Councilman Corey Johnson.
Even some of the bill's biggest backers say it isn't ideal.
"While the solution is inelegant—and I hope in the future we won't have inelegant solutions—I stand by this as a just one," said Councilman Brad Lander.
The injustice, the lawmakers say, is many school bus drivers have had their wages cut. \
Now, a major concern with the bill is where all the money will come from.
"I am very concerned that the [Department of Education] has the ability to quickly give $42 million to this program, and I would ask that we examine their books," said Councilwoman Inez Baron.
City officials have said the money will come from within the DOE's budget, which in the past has been used to cope with transportation crises, like Hurricane Sandy and the bus strike.
Officials say there's enough money through November; then, they'll re-assess.
Another concern is whether it's legal.
"I feel we are opening up this the council and this city to a lawsuit," said Councilwoman Inez Dickens.
"New York state constitution does not allow local governments to allocate funds directly to private businesses unless there is an overwhelming public purpose," said City Councilman Dan Goradnick.
The mayor's office says paying drivers more keeps students safer. The Bloomberg administration even entered the fray Thursday, releasing a memo arguing the bus contracts were set to save the city $405 million.
Most Council members and the mayor say those savings came on the backs of workers. That's something, they say, they felt they needed to correct.