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School Board Approves Bus Driver Pay Increase

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The buses will hopefully stay on the roads thanks to the pay increase.
RALEIGH — Wake County school bus drivers took kids to and from school Wednesday. They did it, even though they're not happy about what they're being paid. Last week, drivers fought the system by calling in sick. This week, itwas a different kind of pressure.

A lot has changed since WRAL first told you about the bus driver'scomplaints almost two weeks ago. Wednesday afternoon, the school boardunanimously approved a 9% raise for all Wake County bus drivers. Theraise becomes effective November first, but the effect on bus drivers wasimmediate. School board members believe the issue has come full circle.

If coming full circle is making bus drivers happy after many walked offthe job, then the school system has made a round trip. The school boardjust approved a raise in starting pay and an increase in maximum pay. Life is now better for new drivers and veteran drivers.

Driver Jerry Lovick says he is happy with the decision. He believes theincrease is going to be good for all of the drivers.

Dozens of Wake County drivers refused to drive their routes when administratorsproposed paying new drivers $10 an hour. The attempt at solving the driver shortage drove some to anger when veteran employees saw they couldearn less than the rookies.

"Some drivers feel that had to happen in order for it to get as far as ithas gotten," explains driver Donna Horton. "We're glad that it's whereit's at now. We can go forward now. We're not going backwards. It's only going to get better from here."

In the end, 9% across the board raises got unanimous approval from theschool board.

Wake County School Board member John Gilbert says the answer was simple.The system has to have more money and drivers have to have more money inorder to keep the buses moving.

The part that's not so simple is how to pay for it. Administrators planto cut back on general operating expenses and on utility costs. The threeyear pay increase package will cost more than $3 million dollars in stateand local funding.

In terms of pay scale, beginning drivers will start around $8 an hour,while veteran drivers will earn over $11 an hour.