ATHENS, Ga. -- Clarke County School District bus drivers claim they're working more hours than their salary schedules dictate, and some are threatening to call in sick over the next few weeks to show their frustration with longer routes and fewer drivers.
Budget cutbacks have resulted in some buses taking two to three hours to ferry students.
At least a dozen drivers said Thursday that they are supposed to work four hours a day, but many say they have been working six hours or more to complete lengthy routes necessitated by cuts in the district transportation budget.
In June, the Clarke County Board of Education cut the 1999-2000 transportation budget by about $250,000 and eliminated 10 driving positions.
"We understand budget cuts happen, but most routes are just too long to get done," said Edna Hull, a 15-year bus driver. "The board changes things but doesn't realize some routes are two or three hours."
Most drivers contacted said they'd support a sickout or other action to show their frustration.
Drivers have been discussing the idea for the past few days, several said.
"Only the Lord knows what will happen," said Nancy Currie, a third-year driver.
As of this school year, bus drivers are paid a yearly salary based on four hours per day instead of hourly as in previous years.
"In a sense their salary is based on 20 hours a week, but they're getting a salary to do a job until it's done," said Willie Moon, transportation operations supervisor for the school district.
School Superintendent Lucian Harris anyone working more than four hours daily will have their routes shortened.
"Four days into school is too early to be overly concerned, but we will work to fit all drivers into that time frame," he said.
As for the threat of a sickout, Mr. Harris said he believes any problems can be worked out.
"We've always had drivers who have shown great respect for what we're trying to do in the Clarke County School District, and I'd think we'd sit down and discuss all concerns and try to work them out," he said.