BAR HARBOR — Raising the pay for substitute school bus drivers won’t necessarily eliminate the shortage of drivers, but Mount Desert Island Regional School System officials figure it can’t hurt.
Until now, the starting rate has been $17.93 an hour for substitutes who drive regular routes and $15 for those who drive students to sports, music or other activities.
On the recommendation of Superintendent Marc Gousse and Operations Manager Eric Hann, the school system board voted Monday night to increase the starting pay to $21 an hour for all substitute bus drivers. And whenever a substitute drives, he or she will now be paid for a minimum of two hours.
Hann presented a chart showing that substitute bus drivers for schools in Hancock, Lamoine and Bucksport all start at $20.40 an hour. Ellsworth pays $18 to $20. In Sullivan, it’s $18.50.
“We are at a point where we are potentially losing drivers, certainly not attracting drivers, Gousse said. “The principals will tell you we are in a really tough spot right now. I don’t want to lose drivers and not be able to provide trips and rich experiences for our children.”
He said the schools will have to find money in their existing budgets to pay the higher rate for substitute drivers this year.
“The rationale for that is for us to stay in line or slightly ahead of the curve so that we cannot only retain people, but we can attract people,” Gousse said. “I believe that if we don’t do this, there will be some potentially negative consequences.”