SALEM, Ore. — A school district here has raised the starting wages for its bus drivers and other pupil transportation employees in an effort to boost recruitment and retention.
The pay increase at Salem-Keizer Public Schools went into effect on Feb. 16, according to a news release from the district.
New school bus drivers now earn $17.47 per hour, up from $15.82 per hour. The pay scale for drivers has gone up to $22.30 per hour under the new maximum hourly rates.
Overall, the starting pay increases range from an extra $1.65 per hour to an additional $3.89 per hour, depending on the position. Dispatchers will now start at $19.26 per hour, as opposed to $16.58, and mechanics begin at $23.41 per hour versus the previous starting wage of $20.29 per hour.
The pay bumps are expected to help the district recruit and retain bus drivers and other transportation staff members.
“We have been at a critical point with our bus driver shortage for the past couple of years,” said Michael Shields, the district’s director of transportation services. “Many of our department employees have had to drop everything and drive buses on a daily basis, just to keep up with demand.”
Shields told School Bus Fleet that the district hopes to hire 50 more drivers, in part due to plans to expand its pre-K and Head Start programs in the 2020-21 school year. The district also needs one more dispatcher, one lead dispatcher, and three additional mechanics, Shields added.
Additionally, new bus drivers who have not been previously employed as a bus driver for the district within a year of their new hire date are eligible to receive hiring incentives of up to $3,000. For more information, go here.