Each Horry County Schools bus driver is responsible for safely transporting hundreds of children per day to and from school. But they’re paid like janitors and cafeteria workers.
On Monday, the school board passed its 2018-19 budget that was amended to include a pay raise for bus drivers and separates their pay scale from other district employees.
An amendment to the $682.5 million budget gives bus drivers a $1 per hour pay increase across the new pay grade and increases starting pay from $12 to $13 per hour in an effort to recruit and retain more drivers, which will make the roads safer, according to school board human resources committee chair David Cox.
“It’s just like anything, the longer you do it the better you’ll get at it,” Cox said. “I know they are out on the road, I know they are trying to control sometime uncontrollable children, they have to watch out for road rage. We have to do what we think is best. We know we have a bus driver shortage. We’re losing bus drivers. I’m not sure the other people on their scale of pay have to go through as much grief as bus drivers.
Drivers, unlike other district staff, are required to maintain a CDL driver’s license, submit to random drug tests at any time and undergo a physical.
“Their duties are very essential to this district. I feel they have the largest responsibility of keeping our children safe,” said board member Sherrie Todd. “They’re like a nurse or doctor. If there’s a scrape or a cut, they’re responsible to taking care of that child. They have EpiPens on the bus if they have to stop to use the EpiPen on that child. I feel we need to reward them for the multiple duties that we have.”
Chief Financial Officer John Gardner said the total cost of the raise is $813,000.
Right now, the district pays less than Coastal Carolina University, which starts drivers at $12.06 an hour and offers full-time employment as opposed to Horry County Schools’ 180-day contracts.
As of October 2017, Coast RTA paid its drivers a starting salary of $12.63 per hour.
“It will help retain bus drivers by giving them a living wage, it will help recruit bus drivers because we’re now paying more than Coastal Carolina or Horry-Georgetown,” Cox said.
The budget that received final approval Monday also includes a 3-percent pay raise for teachers and funding for eight additional mental health counselors.