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The following was shared by Vicky Cutroneo, Howard County Board of Education Member on November 18th:

HCPSS Commits to $5,000 Incentive Pay for All Bus Drivers and Attendants; Up to $4,000 Incentive Pay for Newly Hired Drivers; Up to $3,000 for Bus Contractors to Help Fill Inactive Routes

The Howard County Board of Education took action today to begin addressing the bus driver shortage that has impacted HCPSS since the beginning of the school year. The Board approved amendments to transportation contracts to provide a financial incentive for school bus drivers and attendants. This action would not have been possible without a $2 million commitment from County Executive Calvin Ball. The remaining costs will be covered with transportation savings in HCPSS’s budget. The additional funding will provide:

  • $5,000 in one-time incentives for all current bus drivers and attendants,
  • $1,500 signing bonus and up to a total of $2,500 in monthly incentive payments for all newly hired bus drivers and attendants
  • $3,000 over three months to help bus contractors with driver shortages recruit and hire new staff to activate the remaining 95 routes, plus
  • A 10% payment to bus contractors for each incentive bonus paid to bus drivers and attendants for overhead costs

The school system wants to help bus drivers during this difficult time by getting these funds directly into their pockets. The initial $2,500 incentive bonuses for current bus drivers and attendants will be disbursed to all bus contractors within ten days of execution of the amended contracts and the remaining $2,500 will be paid monthly through the end of the school year.

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The Howard County Public School System contracts its bus services to several local vendors, who will distribute the bonuses to their employees and will be required to provide verification to HCPSS that bus drivers and attendants received their payments timely.

While these short-term financial incentives are necessary to remain competitive as many other districts explore similar incentives, the long-term sustainability of transportation operations will require several strategies. HCPSS will work with bus contractors to examine the feasibility of increasing bus driver pay and benefits to support the recruitment and retention of high-quality bus drivers.

Since the start of the school year, HCPSS has experienced a shortage of approximately 95 bus drivers. The driver shortage has required many doubled bus routes, causing many students to arrive at school early or remain later at the end of the school day and resulting in significant challenges and inconvenience for drivers, families and school staff. Addressing the bus driver shortage requires a sustained effort and multiple action pathways. HCPSS has implemented a number of outreach initiatives, including recent hiring fairs, in order to attract new drivers and staff in other critical shortage areas, and will continue to work with bus contractors in an effort to reduce the number of driver shortages.

The Superintendent and Board of Education members thanked the County Executive for the county’s commitment of American Rescue Plan funding to help support this effort.

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For additional information on the County Executive commitment of American Rescue Plan funding to help support this effort:

Howard County commits $2 million of the County’s American Rescue Plan allocation for existing bus drivers and attendants; and signing bonuses to address the vacancy and workload issues

Scott E