A recent review of ways to recruit and retain needed school bus drivers for the Fayette County School System led to several changes by the Fayette County Board of Education on Sept. 19.
Recommendations on Sept. 6 by Transportation Director Roxanne Owen for recruiting new bus drivers included increasing the finders fee from $100 to $250, a move approved by the school board on Sept. 19.
Also at the meeting, the school board voted to have drivers’ annual salaries adjusted to reflect the actual years experience, a topic that Owen brought up Sept. 6. The adjustment will be made over a two-year period.
Effective on Jan. 1, the annual salary will be increased a maximum of two salary levels (approximately 6 percent) to reflect the actual years of service as a bus driver with the school system. The move carries an estimated cost of $87,000.
The average pay for a bus driver, according to the system office, is $13,958.76 per year.
Effective in the FY 2018 school year that begins on July 1, 2017, driver pay will be increased to reflect the actual years of service as a bus driver with the school system. This change is estimated to cost $131,000.
The school board in another retention move agreed to retrofit all school buses with air conditioning.
Superintendent Jody Barrow at the Sept. 6 meeting said retrofitting would likely cost of approximately $6,500 per school bus.
The school system has 258 buses, with many of those smaller buses already equipped with air conditioning. There are approximately 140 larger buses which would need retrofitting.
School system staff are currently building the specifications for a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the retrofitting work.
School board members were aware that bus drivers are some of the most difficult of the system positions to fill. Bus drivers are eligible for benefits such as health insurance.
“Last year Gov. Deal wanted to do away with insurance for them, but it didn’t happen. Bus drivers used to get a stipend, like the rest of us, that paid for most of the healthcare and dental premium. That was eliminated several years ago for all employees,” said school system spokesperson Melinda Berry-Dreisbach on Monday.