Board Approves Plan to Provide Bonuses to Bus Drivers
Oct. 10, 2019 – Bus drivers in Guilford County Schools will soon see a little extra in their paychecks. The Guilford County Board of Education approved an incentive package worth $2 million to help keep current drivers employed with GCS.
At Thursday’s meeting, board members learned that the district has more than 50 driver vacancies, up from fewer than 40 at the start of the school year. Because of the statewide driver shortage, some current drivers have been running second routes or extended routes to ensure that all 35,000 students who ride the bus will have transportation. Unfortunately, students on these routes are often late for school.
In the 2019-20 budget request to the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, the school board asked for an increase in its operating costs to cover salary increases for bus drivers, along with increased teacher supplements, other salary increases and greater retirement and benefit costs. The county did not fund the full request.
As a result, GCS will reach into its fund balance to provide one-time bonuses to drivers instead of a pay raise. District leaders are also looking at ways to recruit new drivers, including a plan to allow teachers to drive before and after school.
“Our bus drivers work extremely hard under often challenging circumstances, and they are among our lowest paid employees,” says Superintendent Sharon L Contreras, PhD. “We have to find ways to show them how valuable they are to the district and encourage them to remain employed while we work on finding ways to increase their salaries.”
Also Thursday, the board approved $1 million to help the district implement a modern business system. The district’s financial system is more than 20 years old and doesn’t integrate payroll and human resources systems. The North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation to plan and fund modernization of school business systems, and the district can choose between two vendors to select the system that best fits its needs.
GCS is currently reviewing the vendors but will need extra help to implement the new system, as well as train staff and manage the transition. To do so, GCS will use the $1 million for project management and other expenses required to implement the software smoothly and without delaying its financial routine. The one-time expenditure will come from the district’s reserved fund balance.