ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Anne Arundel County Superintendent of Schools Dr. George Arlotto is seeking a $7.4 million budget increase to boost pay for school bus drivers and attendants.
In a proposal announced Thursday, Dr. Arlotto said he’s asking the Board of Education for enough money to make sure every bus driver and attendant employed by the school district and its contractors receives a pay raise equal to $5 an hour. The proposal is part of an effort aimed at addressing a bus driver shortage, which has had a significant impact on bus routes this year.READ MORE: Growing Number Of Covid Deaths Among Vaccinated In Maryland Linked to Diabetes; Hogan Pushes Booster Shots As State Prepares To Vaccinate Children
Besides the budget increase, the superintendent also recommends spending $150,000 in federal funding to provide $2,000 signing bonuses to new hires, as well as $2 million that would go toward retention bonuses for existing drivers and attendants. The bonuses, Dr Arlotto said, would be financed through the county’s American Rescue Plan funds.
Earlier this week drivers with the Annapolis Bus Company went on strike, demanding higher compensation to match a tougher workload brought on by the shortage.
About 80 Anne Arundel County school bus routes were canceled Tuesday.
Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman said Tuesday the school system must make a plan.
“We must get a plan together because it is that plan that’s going to give our current drivers the faith that things will get better,” Pittman said Tuesday. “We won’t solve the shortage of drivers problem in this county until we address the fact that these jobs don’t pay a livable wage.”
In his statement Thursday, the superintendent challenged Pittman’s remarks.READ MORE: At Least 10 People Shot, 1 Killed, Over The Weekend In Baltimore
“Mr. Pittman’s statement yesterday that our school system has not been working on a plan to address this issue could not have been more incorrect,” Dr. Arlotto said. “We have actively been working on a plan, respecting that our bus services are provided by independent vendors and their employees. The County Executive and his administration have, in fact, been part of those ongoing conversations. What we have come up with at this point will not solve the problem overnight, but it will hasten the day when all of our bus routes are covered for all of our students.”
“We now have a proposal that gives hope to our drivers and an incentive for others to join their ranks,” Pittman said in response to the announcement Thursday. “I look forward to working with Dr. Arlotto and the Board of Education on a funding plan and swift implementation.”
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