NKY bus drivers, monitors threaten to ‘shut down’ school system without pay raise

A spokesperson says current inflation rates mean “it would cost employees to keep working” in the new school year.
Published: Jul. 18, 2022 at 5:36 PM EDT
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ALEXANDRIA, Ky. (WXIX) - School bus drivers and monitors in Campbell County petitioned the board of education for a pay increase at a meeting of the board Monday.

Board members did not comment on the pay raise petition at the meeting.

A spokesperson for a “united majority” of bus drivers and monitors says if the board does not match what other districts are paying, “the majority of buses will not run on the first day of school which will basically shut down the school system unless all parents are willing to drive students.”

The petition asks for a pay raise in writing before Aug. 10; otherwise, the majority of drivers and monitors “will not be showing up for work.”

Campbell County Director of School Improvement Connie Pohlgeers says bus drivers and monitors approached the board on May 24 with a request for pay increases that would make their pay “equally competitive within the region.” The board and the monitors agreed on an 11.8 percent increase on top of the 1.5 percent “step” increase.

“Drivers’ salaries were more competitive than other positions within the region,” Pohlgeers explained. “They received an additional 1 percent in June. Their total increase this year is 3.5 percent with step.”

Pohlgeers adds the district gave all employees a $500 bonus in 2021 due to the impact of working through the pandemic.

“Our board has stated that they want to remain competitive and they know that we will need to revisit the classified hourly pay scales this year,” Pohlgeers said. “We are currently revisiting routes, actively working with the transportation department to find areas where we can increase efficiency, we are looking for drivers, and we are listening. We do not want our families, students, and staff impacted negatively. We will continue to work with the transportation department and plan for a great year.”

The spokesperson for the bus drivers and monitors acknowledges the district approved the May pay raise to which more than 90 drivers and monitors signed on. But the spokesperson argues significant pay disparities still exist.

They provided data appearing to show Campbell County bus drivers and monitors are underpaid compared to their counterparts in other Northern Kentucky school districts.

“Three years ago, the Campbell County district was number one on the starting pay scale,” the spokesperson said. “Now of all Northern Kentucky districts, we are dead last.”

According to the petition, Campbell County Transportation did not offer drivers and monitor and pay raises in 2021 where other local districts increased by $2-3/hour drawing from COVID relief and stimulus funds that all districts received.

Campbell County drivers got $16/hour pre-pandemic, the data show. Drivers in Covington, Kenton, Pendleton, Boone and Fort Thomas districts received an average starting pay of $15.30/hour.

In the last three years, according to the data, Campbell Country drivers got a 4 percent pay raise, such that they now make $16.65/hour. Meanwhile, the average starting pay of drivers in the other districts has risen to $17.81/hour, an increase of 14 percent.

Drivers without experience will earn 12 percent more in Kenton County than Campbell County in the 2022-23 school year, according to the petition, monitors without experience will earn 25 percent more.

“There is no reason this should happen as we all have the same responsibilities,” the petition reads. “When considering inflation rates, gasoline prices, etc., it would cost employees money to keep working.”

The petition further notes Campbell County drivers earn a flat rate of $15.25/hour for extracurriculars including field trips and events rather than full pay.

“Let’s face facts,” the petition reads, “no one is going to get rich from driving or monitoring on a school bus, however, drivers and monitors have enormous responsibilities transporting children to and from school safely every day throughout the school year and we feel it is only fair and just that we want what other drivers and monitors are making nearby.”

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