MCDONOUGH, Ga. — After years of wage freezes, bus drivers at Henry County Schools will see a pay increase in the upcoming school year as the district tries to be more competitive in recruiting and retaining drivers.
The 2015-16 budget for the district, totaling $341.8 million, will include pay increases for other school employees in addition to school bus drivers, with an average increase of 5% for most employees, Henry Daily Herald reports. The budget is the largest to date for the district.
The move is an effort to hold onto the district’s bus drivers as well as recruit much-needed new ones. Last fall, more than a dozen drivers left the district in the first month of school to find better-paying jobs elsewhere, according to the newspaper. Meanwhile, last year’s shortage of drivers caused some buses to arrive late to stops and schools.
The increases in pay for the district’s 300 bus drivers will range from 5% to 21%, depending on how long they have worked for the district, Cliff Shearouse, director of transportation services for Henry County Schools, told SBF.
Drivers who have worked for the district the least amount of time will receive the raises on the higher end, at 21%. The reason those drivers will see a larger pay bump, Shearouse explained, is that for the last five years, district employees’ salaries were frozen due to tight budgets resulting from the recession, and starting pay was reduced to even the pay scale for all bus drivers.
“The driver that was coming in with zero experience was getting paid less and less,” he said. “The board of education recognized that they needed to increase [their pay] to become more competitive with other districts in our area.”
Drivers who have been with the district for up to eight years are set to see the higher raise percentages, and pay raise scale goes down to 5% for drivers who have worked for the district longer, topping out at 30 years.
The district is planning to hire drivers for 30 to 40 new full-time positions, Shearouse said.
The raises will help considerably with alleviating the bus driver shortage, making the district more competitive as it attempts to draw more drivers, he added.
“We lost a lot of drivers to other districts who pay more. Now, I think we’re going to keep a lot of our veteran drivers who were looking at going to higher-paying districts, and attract more people to become drivers."