UTICA, N.Y. – Birnie Bus Inc. is accusing the Utica City School District of breaching its contract due to nonpayment, according to a lawsuit the bus company filed in state Supreme Court.
Birnie Bus claims the district was required to pay for the last three months of the 2019-2020 school year according to the standing contract, regardless of remote learning due to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to court documents, Birnie Bus claims the district owes them $2.7 million for invoices from April, May and June of 2020, when the company was contractually obligated to remain staffed and ready to work even though school was not in person.
The bus company alleges the contract allows the district to make changes to the number of buses needed or the routes, but does not allow the district to make changes to monthly payments or decline to pay.
The district then chose not to renew its contract with Birnie Bus, which was slated to end in June of 2021. The district announced in March they were switching to a new bus provider, Durham School Services, under a five-year contract.
Birnie alleges the decision not to renew the contract was a “bad faith tactic” so the district could get out of paying the $2.7 million.
The bus company says the alleged breach puts them at risk of losing trained drivers, mechanics and support staff, and will cause "irreparable harm" to the business.
Birnie is seeking payment of the $2.7 million as well as punitive damages.
NEWSChannel 2 has reached out to both Birnie Bus and the Utica school district for comment on this case, and is awaiting return calls.