Annapolis, MD (Arundel.News & AAFA)- Bus drivers and bus aides in Anne Arundel County will begin seeing installments of their retention bonuses in the coming weeks. According to a release on Thursday 11/4, the county will begin paying part of the increases promised to current bus employees by County Executive Pittman last month.  Those bonuses and higher pay rates were pledged by Pittman during driver strikes that left thousands of the county's public school students without a ride to school.

The move sparked dissent from the school board's President, Melissa Ellis, who accused Pittman of circumventing the Board's authority. In a letter published exclusively on Arundel.News, Ellis said she felt Pittman's promises were made on the basis that the school board was to blame for a problem that has lingered for years. The Board President implored Pittman to work with the school system to implement a better system of ensuring students get to school through driver retention. Read that story here.

The county says that it will be working with the Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corporation to formulate driver contracts aimed at attracting and keeping bus drivers and aides. Those contracts will be paid directly to bus contractors by the AAWDC, effectively omitting the school board and AACPS from the equation. 

Bus drivers would get $5,000 to stay on and new hires would receive their first bonus of $2,500 after completing one week on the job, once the program begins. Bus aides will get $2,000 bonuses.

Today's announcement does not mention the school board other than to say that Pittman's plan to use 4.2 million dollars in federal recovery funds from the American Rescue Plan, would cost approximately $5.5 million dollars less than the proposal submitted to the County Council by the school board. 

Bonuses will be paid in several installments over the next 7 months. A budget proposal for an emergency increase in hourly pay rates for drivers is still under consideration by the County Council. That legislation is set to be considered this month.   

Read the entire release of information from Anne Arundel County Executive Pittman below: 

(November 4, 2021) Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman and the Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corporation (AAWDC) today announced retention and new hire bonuses for contracted school bus drivers and aides, a local approach to solving the national driver shortage. The bonuses provide an immediate solution to challenges faced by school bus contractors in recruiting and retaining staff.

“We can’t continue leaving kids stranded and parents’ work schedules disrupted due to a national shortage of school bus drivers,” said County Executive Pittman. “Dedicating $4.2 milllion of our county’s federal recovery funds to these bonuses is the right thing to do for parents and their kids.”

School bus drivers will receive $5,000 retention or new hire bonuses, while aides will receive $2,000 retention or new hire bonuses. The bonuses will be paid via contracts between AAWDC and school bus contractors, giving the companies an added carrot as they seek to compete with other jurisdictions and private entities like Amazon for staff.

“Thank you County Executive Steuart Pittman for working to find local solutions to this national issue,” Maryland School Bus Contractor Association representative Erin Appel said. “This is the quickest and most efficient way to help our bus drivers and get our kids to school.” 

By using a portion of the County’s American Rescue Plan funds, the money will reach drivers faster while coming in at a lower cost than the request last month by Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS). The Board of Education’s request was submitted to the County Council as Bill 88-21. County Executive Pittman’s plan for retention and new hire bonuses will cost $4.2 million, less than half of the $9.7 million total price tag of the Board’s initial request. As a result, the legislation containing the appropriation request will be withdrawn.

"The bonus structure will give the contractors flexibility in the recruitment and retention process,” Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corporation President and CEO Kirkland Murray said. “We know it’s a very competitive environment for bus drivers at a local and national level right now, and these bonuses provide a tool for the contractors to put and keep staff in place.”

The bonuses will be paid to drivers and aides in three installments:

Retention ($5,000 Drivers/$2,000 Aides)

  • $2,500/$1,000 immediately when the program starts and contracts are completed with their respective employer.
  • $500/$200 on the first pay date in March 2022.
  • $2,000/$800 on the last pay date of the school year in June 2022.

New Hire ($5,000 Drivers/$2,000 Aides)

  • $2,500/$1,000 after the first week working an AACPS bus route.
  • $500/$200 after 90 days of working.
  • $2,000/$800 on the last pay date of the school year in June 2022.

Payments will begin reaching contracted drivers and aides in the coming weeks, once AAWDC finalizes contracts with individual bus contractors. 

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