Education

Rock Hill schools eye bus driver pay increase amid driver shortage

A sign advertises bus driver employment with the Rock Hill school district in front of Ebinport Elementary School.
A sign advertises bus driver employment with the Rock Hill school district in front of Ebinport Elementary School. tkimball@heraldonline.com

Bus drivers for Rock Hill schools may soon see their pay increase.

Rock Hill school district administration has proposed increasing bus driver salaries by 50 cents an hour for drivers with 11 years of experience up to 19 years and by $1.25 an hour for drivers with at least 20 years of experience, said Terri Smith, the district's chief finance officer.

That would bring the salary of a Rock Hill bus driver with 19 years of experience up to $16.44 an hour and up to $18.45 an hour for a bus driver with 26 years of experience, Smith said.

The increase will cost the district $61,000 for the remainder of this fiscal year and $120,000 a year going forward, Smith said. The district will include the cost in its general fund budget.

The Rock Hill school board will need to approve the salary increases at its Jan. 22 business meeting. If approved, the new pay schedule would go into effect for the February pay period.

The proposal comes as other York County school districts are increasing pay to attract bus drivers.

In November, Fort Mill school district approved a bus driver pay increase with a base rate of $12.80 an hour, with step increases up to $22.63 an hour. That made Fort Mill the highest paying York County school district for bus drivers.

A Fort Mill bus driver with 19 years of experience makes $21.09 an hour and a driver with 26 years of experience makes $22.63 an hour, which is $5 more than what Rock Hill currently pays.

“We are starting to see our more experienced drivers leave for Fort Mill because of that pay difference,” Smith said.

Clover also pays bus drivers more than Rock Hill. A Clover bus driver with 19 years of experience makes $20.33 an hour and a driver with 26 years of experience makes $23.18 an hour.

York schools pay bus drivers with 19 years of experience $16.63 an hour. Drivers with 26 years of experience in York make $17.54 an hour.

Smith said Rock Hill cannot afford to match Fort Mill or Clover’s salaries, but the increase gets them closer.

Rock Hill, like other school districts across the nation, is facing a challenge filling driver positions and retaining them.

Rock Hill currently has 12 bus driver vacancies.

“I do very much see a need in implementing this (increase),” said Rock Hill Superintendent Kelly Pew.

Rock Hill school board chair Jim Vining said the district also needs to look at improving bus driver facilities to be more in line with what Fort Mill and others offer.

Bernard Gill, director of transportation, said Fort Mill and York school districts have new facilities for bus drivers.

Tony Cox, deputy superintendent of Rock Hill’s district, said the district has been discussing how to address that need and has plans for an expanded and improved bus lot.

To get facilities comparable to what Fort Mill and York offer would cost millions, Cox said.

Board member Windy Cole asked if more could be done to show bus drivers appreciation.

“I have had comments from bus drivers in the past that they don’t feel as appreciated as they should be,” she said. “We’re trusting them with our children and we pay babysitters more to watch four kids than we pay bus drivers.”

Board member Terry Hutchinson agreed the pay increase is needed.

“Without (the drivers), the children don’t get to school unless you take them,” he said. “We need to have the drivers and we need to take care of drivers.”

The Rock Hill school board next meets at 6 p.m. Jan. 22 in the Rawlinson Road Middle School auditorium.

Amanda Harris: 803-329-4082

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