WILLIAMSBURG-JAMES CITY COUNTY — The Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools (WJCC) School Board voted to approve a $1.25 per hour salary increase for WJCC school bus drivers during Tuesday, Nov. 16’s meeting.
The raise goes into effect Dec. 1 for drivers who are employed at that time and will appear in their December paychecks.
The salary increase is a response to the bus driver shortage the division has faced this year, impacting arrival and dismissal times for students.
To address the ongoing transportation issues, the division adjusted school start and end times by five-10 minutes to allow for more time for bus drivers to get to and from school, as well as contracted transportation services from third-party vendors.
The pay raise will cost the division an estimated $135,000 for the remainder of the year.
Members of the board questioned if the $1.25 increase is enough to compete with other local bus driver wages.
Superintendent Dr. Olwen Herron said that the salary increase currently brings the division to the top of driver salaries in the region.
“I know the last time we did a bus driver pay raise was when we had a total review done of compensation in the school division and that was probably, I want to say, six or seven years ago, and at that time there was a significant percentage increase,” Herron said.
Previously, WJCC had the lowest starting pay for driver salaries compared to its nearest competitors in the region at $15.24 an hour. The increase will bring the drivers’ starting pay to $16.49 an hour.
Board member Kyra Cook said that the division should prepare to “accelerate” in the next budget.
“I think the last thing we want to do is get caught in this cycle again,” Cook said. “I know there’s a lot of pressure on wages right now and it’s much better for this organization to maintain its staff and workforce than it is to start to lose it due to competing wages elsewhere and then have to try to rebuild. So I hope we’re ready to be bold in the next budget cycle.”
The board unanimously voted to approve the salary increase.