Fayette school budget examination may include look at schoolbus drivers
Questions have arisen about the salaries and benefits received by bus drivers working in the Fayette County School System. Bus drivers are among the lowest paid of the more than 3,000 school system employees, but the benefits they receive — most of which are paid by their employer — may make the part-time job one that is desirable for many.
The school system currently employs 206 drivers in the part-time position. The salary schedule for bus drivers provided by the school system shows an entry level annual salary of $11,498. Salary increases are contained in 17 levels and top out at $18,528. The current systemwide average salary for bus drivers is $12,433.11, according to the school system.
And what about the benefits for bus drivers? The big one, in a day of shrinking benefits across the country, is healthcare. The school system pays the large majority of the cost of single coverage for the bus driver, which totals $4,407 per year and includes a $296.20 monthly employer-paid premium payment along with a $71.14 monthly supplement, also paid by the school system. Bus drivers pay $50-60 per month for the coverage.
Fayette school system spokesperson Melinda Berry-Dreisbach said December 2011 records indicate that 176 of the 206 drivers receive the healthcare benefit.
Drivers are also eligible for single-coverage dental insurance for which the school system pays $264 per year. The December payroll indicated that 161 drivers took the benefit. Bus drivers pay approximately $12 per month.
The school system also pays for long-term disability insurance at $9.83 per month or $117.96 per year, at no cost to the employee.
And the school system pays for a portion of life insurance, though that number was not available, as well as the system’s share of Social Security and Medicare, generally slightly under 8 percent of the employee’s wages.
On average, drivers work about 22.5 hours each week, according to Berry-Dreisbach.
New drivers are assigned to a level based on experience.
“For every two years of bus driving experience a driver is assigned a level on the pay scale. The maximum level an incoming driver can obtain is Level 5. So if a driver has two years of experience he or she would be assigned to Level 1; four years would be Level 2; six years would be Level 3, etc. For now, drivers are remaining at the levels at which they were hired since we have not been getting level increases due to budget restrictions,” said Berry-Dreisbach.
But there is a bit more to the story for bus drivers. Drivers average $12,433.11 in Fayette County but the state pays only $9,574.16 per driver for 92 drivers. With Fayette employing 206 bus drivers, that means that another 114 drivers are paid exclusively by the school system.
That translates into Fayette County taxpayers picking up the tab totaling $263,028 for the 92 bus drivers for whom the state does not pay the total salary and $1,417,362 for the total salary of the remaining 114 drivers not covered by the state.