School bus drivers in Fort Mill will soon be making more per hour.
The Fort Mill school district Tuesday approved to increase the bus driver pay scale to a base rate of $12.80 an hour, with step increases up to $22.63 an hour.
The new pay scale takes effect Dec. 2. It will be applied to all current and future driver salaries.
With the increase, Fort Mill is the highest paying school district in York County for bus drivers, according to the district.
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“Bus drivers play a key role in the education of our students,” said Fort Mill Superintendent Chuck Epps. “Not only are they responsible for the safe transportation of students, but they can also set a positive tone for the student’s day. We believe this change will allow us to be more competitive in our efforts to hire and retain drivers.”
Fort Mill, like other school districts across the nation, is facing a challenge filling driver positions and retaining them, said Joe Burke, Fort Mill school district spokesperson.
Fort Mill is down about 23 full-time bus drivers, Burke said. He said the district currently employs about 87 drivers full-time.
“We’re doing everything we can to keep that from impacting routes,” Burke said.
Burke said the shortage is, in part, because of competition with private businesses who hire drivers and a shift in who is looking for driver positions, not necessarily the traditional retirees. He said the district has seen more college students looking for driver positions that work with their schedules.
Younger drivers and people whose retirement needs have changed mean positions need to pay more to attract and keep drivers, Burke said.
Other local school districts face the same challenges.
Last year, the Clover school district raised bus driver pay by $3 an hour, bringing the starting rate to $12.72 with increases based on experience. At the time, the increase made Clover the highest paying school district in York County.
A Clover bus driver with 26 years of experience makes $23.18 an hour, according to the school district. Clover has three full-time openings, said Bryan Dillon, spokesperson for the district. Clover employs 49 full-time drivers and nine part-time drivers.
The York school district’s transportation department is fully staffed, but is always interviewing and hiring new employees, said district spokesperson Tim Cooper.
York bus driver salaries range from $11.20 to $17.54 an hour based on experience, Cooper said. The transportation department has 67 employees, including drivers, monitors and dispatchers.
Rock Hill schools starts bus drivers at $11.95 an hour with step increases up to $17.20 for a driver with 25 years of experience, according to the district. Rock Hill is fully staffed, but the district is always looking to hire and train more bus drivers, said district spokesperson Mychal Frost. The district hires about 100 bus drivers, he said.
At the start of this school year, Rock Hill bus drivers were moved to an annual pay system where they get paid in equal payments for 12 months, Frost said. This means drivers will no longer have pay gaps during the summer when schools are closed.
“This has been received well by our drivers as it creates a consistent income source year-round,” Frost said.
Chester County schools start the hourly rate for bus drivers at $10.46, with step increases based on years of experience, according to the school district. A driver with 24 years of experience makes $14.37 an hour.
Some districts, including Clover, Rock Hill, Fort Mill and York schools, offer health insurance and retirement benefits to their drivers.
Amanda Harris: 803-329-4082