Plum officials hope pay hike for bus drivers leads to more interest
By Karen Zapf
Published: Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
The Plum School District's bus driver situation is looking brighter.
The school board during a meeting Tuesday nightwas expected to consider hiring three drivers, bringing the total to 45, according to district transportation Manager Scott Mergen.
Mergen believes the board's action last month to increase pay rates for bus drivers paved the way for interest in the jobs.
“It is definitely looking more positive now,” Mergen said Monday. “The wage increase brought the beginning pay rate up to the market rate.”
The Plum School Board during its Aug. 27 meeting voted to approve raising the rate for new drivers to $16 an hour. Previously, new drivers were paid a percentage of the $16.91 an hour rate until they worked for 36 months.
Also the board voted to approve raising the top pay rate for bus drivers from $16.91 an hour to $17 an hour.
Bus driver Donna Meanor, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1595, said the agreement was reached during an Aug. 26 meeting. Meanor said she, Superintendent Timothy Glasspool and Mergen worked on the rates.
“We need drivers really, really bad,” Meanor had said.
The board also voted to approve higher rates for bus aides and substitute aides.
The district's bus drivers earlier this year had agreed to a $4.23 an hour wage cut for the 2013-14 school year.
Mergen said on Monday that the need for additional drivers became more urgent when three additional bus routes were added at the beginning of the school year.
Mergen said the three routes were created by overcrowding on a few buses.
The district currently is outsourcing 11 routes because of a lack of drivers, Mergen said.
New drivers who have not previously driven school buses begin their duties after they complete the mandated classroom and driving instruction as well as pass a driver's test. They also must pass security clearances to be on the job.
The district also has some new buses to replace aging ones, Mergen said.
Board members approved spending $105,000 to purchase seven buses that are 10 years old.
“They (the buses that are being replaced) are too old and too rusted,” Mergen said. “We didn't feel they were safe any longer.”
Mergen said the district also purchased three new 48-passenger buses to upgrade the fleet.
Mergen is pleased with the pay hikes and bus purchases.
“Now I feel we can compete for drivers,” Mergen said.
Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8753, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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