Janesville bus money appears safe

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Friday, February 25, 2011
— Janesville's bus system probably won't lose more than $900,000 in federal money—at least for now—because the city recently signed a two-year collective bargaining agreement with its bus drivers.

According to an analysis from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, federal labor law mandates that collective bargaining rights be in place before federal transit funds can be released to a mass transit provider. Elements that must be bargained for include wages, working conditions, pension benefits, seniority, vacation, sick and personal leave.

City Manager Eric Levitt said unknowns remain about transit funds and the governor's budget repair bill that threatens to reduce collective bargaining rights.

Levitt said he believes the city meets the collective bargaining requirement of the federal code because the city has an agreement with the union through 2012.

"I think we've done the best thing we can do to assure that we will get the federal aid, via getting a contract for two more years," Levitt said.

Jay Winzenz, assistant city manager, said he believes the link of federal funds to collective bargaining is unique to transit assistance. The city receives federal funds through community development block grants, too, but nobody in the department that administers the funds has the right to collectively bargain.

Kim Ehrhardt, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment for the Janesville School District, said he does not believe the school district would lose federal funds if changes were made to collective bargaining.

The district, for example, gets Title I funding. To the best of his knowledge, there is no requirement for collective bargaining, he said.

A spokesman in Gov. Scott Walker's office wrote in an e-mail that Walker does not believe changes in collective bargaining would affect federal funding.

"We stand by our statement that the budget repair bill meets all of the federal requirements to continue to receive federal transportation aid," Cullen Werwie, press secretary, said. "Even if some complications arise, as the fiscal bureau memo points out, ultimately local municipalities will be able to receive their federal aid."

The state received $73.9 million in federal transit money in 2010.

The state applies for aid for systems serving areas of 50,000 in population or less. All other systems apply directly to the Federal Transit Administration for federal funds.

No entity has yet applied for 2011 funding. At the time of the application, each applicant must certify that required collective bargaining provisions have been met, according to the legislative bureau.

Last updated: 4:13 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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