The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education unanimously voted to propose raising wages for busing staff and teacher assistants at its meeting last week.
The issue of job vacancies among bus drivers has been a persistent issue for the school district, and the shortage of bus drivers makes it difficult for buses to run according to schedule and transport school students in a timely manner.
Since the economic crisis of 2008, bus drivers, bus monitors and teacher assistants have received hourly wages and salary benefits from the state that are lower than the state maximum, making it difficult for the system to recruit and retain employees for those positions.
The Board and school administrators discussed increasing the wages for bus drivers and adjusting their salary schedule as the next step toward attracting new employees and making CHCCS more competitive in the job market.
Jennifer Bennett, assistant superintendent for business and finance for the district, presented a proposed salary adjustment scale to the board, which covers salaries of bus drivers, bus monitors and teacher assistants in the district.
CHCCS bus drivers make $14.92 per hour until their 15th year of experience. The proposed scale has CHCCS bus drivers making $15.88 per hour base pay, with yearly increases, leading to $16.49 per hour by their 15th year, which is less than the current state maximum. The initial cost to adjust the salaries of bus drivers, bus monitors and teacher assistants is $1,078,700.
Bennett said in 25 years, wages for these employees will more closely align with the state maximum.
Stanley Ray Hoffman said he has been a bus driver for the system for over 10 years and addressed the board at last week's meeting.
“At $14.92 an hour, we feel like we’ve been in the basement for a while,” Hoffman said. "We’re only asking to come up from the basement to the first floor."
Within the salary adjustment plan proposed by Bennett is a potential retention strategy for bus drivers with over 25 years of experience — there are five total in the school system. The strategy includes measures such as increasing their yearly supplement in comparison to drivers with less experience.
“I’d like to see something done for them," said board member Pat Heinrich. "I think it speaks to the whole cohort — not just those five — if we do that."
The Orange County Board of County Commissioners will take the salary increase into consideration at a future meeting.