HCPS gives bus drivers, attendants, cafeteria staff 8 percent raise; Additional half-days are added to ease stress on teachers

Marissa Altenburg, H/S Editor

     On Friday, Nov 12, 2021, an 8 percent raise was approved for all Harford county bus drivers, bus attendants, cafeteria staff, and paid help staff in conjunction “with both the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the Harford County Education Association Education Support Professionals (HCEA-ESP) related to compensation for specific Harford County Public Schools (HCPS) employees the two unions represent” according to the press release form HCPS.

     The increased cost totaling 2.3 million dollars is “paid for by the Federal American Rescue Plan Act,” according to WJZ. 

     Rachael Cardin, a WJZ reporter says, “overall the spokeswoman for the union says they do feel like it was a win for their lowest-paid employees to finally get a raise.”

     The raise will go into effect on Dec 26, 2021, but will not be seen effective in a paycheck until Jan 7, 2022, according to the press release.

     Steve Nelson, owner of Nelson Bus Company and President of the Harford County Bus Contractors Association says that the pay for the bus drivers as of last year “was $18.26 an hour.”

     Nelson says that he thinks there is a decrease in the number of drivers the contractors have is due to several things. The first is age, “we’ve always had an older generation of drivers and now with covid a lot of them are afraid to drive and possibly become sick.” He adds another point saying that with the unemployment from the government many people did not feel like coming back to work yet.

     Being short-staffed as a driver leaves the responsibility to cover the routes on the contractors and their remaining drivers. They could be picking up several routes to get all the children. Nelsons says “the school system awards you with contracts for the number of buses and once they do so they expect you to cover that route. So now we are having to double up to cover that route we were awarded.”

     “The drivers that we have, are very appreciative of the raise, they got a pretty decent raise in Sep. and that took them up to around nineteen dollars, this raise brings them up to over twenty-one dollars,” comments Nelson.

     Nelson Bus Company has seen a few new applicants coming in after the bonus was added for the new hires. Nelson also adds that with the bonus and raise that the applicants that they are starting to see are coming from younger people.

     Nelson finishes his comments by saying that the additional six percent will first help those few drivers running summer school routes but the other drivers with unemployment in the summer will not see the raise until the fall of 2022.