Fayette County Public Schools are trying to offset a shortage of bus drivers by offering them the incentive of $125 for 30 days of perfect attendance.
Fayette County would be following the lead of Jefferson County, which began offering a perfect attendance incentive in late 2016.
As the economy has improved, Fayette and other school districts across the country have had trouble filling driver positions. Even the Fayette district director of transportation has had to resort to driving routes. The district also has the challenge of making sure drivers show up every day to transport kids.
Drivers who take any sort of leave — personal, sick or emergency — would not be eligible for the stipend, said Myron Thompson, the district’s senior operations and support director, at Monday night’s school board meeting.
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“We are trying to reward drivers who had perfect attendance for a month,” he said. “We are trying to incentivize people to show up.”
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for rewarding them for high work ethic,” said Frankie Langdon, president of Fayette County Education Support Professionals Association, whose membership includes bus drivers.
If every employee had perfect attendance, the cost to the school district annually would be $627,750 in the 2017-18 budget, Thompson said. He said having enough drivers is part of the district’s mission to safely transport children.
Transportation Director Marcus Dobbs said in October 2016 that Fayette County had 226 buses on the road and 1,300 routes per day. Bus drivers earn between $14 and $23 per hour, he said then.
In Jefferson County, an incentive pilot program pays a $200 bonus each time a bus driver or special-needs transportation assistant reports to work every day during a two-week pay period, Jefferson district spokeswoman Jennifer Brislin said Tuesday.
“It has made an impact – an average of 830 employees per pay period have earned the bonus,” Brislin said. “We’ve not had to drop a single route since January of this year. And although the bonus pay has totaled nearly $2.5 million since the program was implemented, that cost has been offset by savings from 62 driver vacancies which we’ve been able to carry throughout the year and still handle all routes, thanks to the significant drop in driver absenteeism.”
Brislin said a decision will be made this summer to determine whether to continue the program in Jefferson County next year.