Bus drivers get pay raise

October 03, 2007|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

Bus drivers for Washington County Public Schools will receive about $2 more per hour beginning next week.

Boyd Michael, assistant superintendent for school operations, said the pay increase was in response to an ongoing bus driver shortage in the school system and nationwide.

"We've reached the point where we're going to have route failure without some immediate solution," he said.

Officials are hoping an increase from $12.82 per hour for first-year drivers to $15.07 will attract more applicants.

The pay raise affects about 155 school system bus drivers, according to Supervisor of Transportation Barbara Scotto. The salary increase and related costs - more than $300,000 - will be covered by budget adjustments.

Michael said the new hourly rate for bus drivers in the county is close to what the drivers could get in Frederick County, Md.


"(We) hear they sign on with Frederick County after we train them," Michael said.

He called the bus driver shortage an ongoing problem, and said that if a bus driver is absent for some reason, that route is driven by a substitute.

Officials said there is an average of 12 open runs each day, requiring certified substitute bus drivers and assistants, along with office and garage staff to cover those routes.

"I think we are facing a crisis here in transporting our students," Board President Roxanne R. Ober said.

Scotto said the shortage is a daily challenge for the school system's transportation department.

"We have been using qualified drivers whose primary job is not to drive a school bus on a daily basis, which is not an ideal situation," she said. "However, our primary objective every day is to transport thousands of students safely and in a timely manner, so we use every means possible."

Michael said the pay increase is not a long-term solution to hiring more bus drivers. The salary for veteran drivers still is $7 per hour higher in Frederick County than in Washington County.

He said additional changes might be needed for veteran drivers and in the way benefits are offered.

"I think the bus drivers will feel very much appreciated for the hard work that they do," Michael said of the pay raise.

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