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The Harford County Board of Education and the two unions reached an agreement to increase compensation, Superintendent Sean Bullson announced at a press conference on Tuesday.
As the pandemic continues, the state made the announcement while addressing the shortage of school bus drivers, prompting many counties to provide incentives to retain drivers and recruit new employees.
"At the beginning of the 2019 pandemic, Harford County Public Schools staff came forward and did everything they could to ensure that students, faculty, staff, and families got the support they needed under very difficult circumstances," Burson said "Now we're facing new challenges again."
The agreement with the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) includes a one-time pay increase of 8% for all bus drivers, bus attendants, and food and nutrition professionals starting next month.
A one-time retention fund of US$2,000 will also be issued to all personnel in these three categories. It will apply to school system and bus contractor employees as a signing bonus for new employees; the $2.3 million in funding will be allocated from the county government’s share of the U.S. Rescue Program Act appropriation.
The agreement with the Harford County Educational Association Educational Support Professionals (HCEA-ESP) involves speeding up previously negotiated salary increases. The school board and HCEA-ESP had earlier agreed to increase salaries of auxiliary professionals, inclusive assistants, and designated technicians by 7% in July 2022 and July 2023. According to the new agreement, the 8% increase will take effect next month, and the 6% increase will take effect on July 1, 2022.
"We definitely think that this is deserved for those employees-these people have very low salaries in many cases-so this is really an opportunity for us to train them and bring their salary closer to the salary they deserve. "Christie Crawford-Harford County Education Association Chairman Smick said at a press conference.
At the school board meeting on Monday, the two parties confirmed the agreement and finalized a memorandum of understanding.
Earlier this month, officials from the Baltimore County School System announced incentives, including higher salaries and bonuses for drivers, more flexible vacation options, and work on additional routes for the remainder of the 2021-2022 school year Of drivers offer a shift price of $2 per hour.
The head of Baltimore County, Darryl Williams, said that drivers will receive a monthly reward of $50, a check-in bonus of $250, an employee referral award of $250, and a retention bonus of $1,000 for drivers attending on time. The county also proposed to waive entry-related fees, including background fees
Howard County Executive Calvin Ball also announced that the county’s $2 million in funds from the U.S. rescue program will be used to fund bonuses for existing bus drivers and attendants, as well as signing bonuses for new employees.
Last week, the Carroll County Board of Education also announced that it had approved financial incentives to retain and hire school bus drivers. The driver will receive $1,000 and the bus attendant will receive $500.
Sharon Horton Moxley, a special needs school bus attendant at Harford County Public Schools and chairman of AFSCME Local 2471, told The Aegis that she was "happy" with the decision.
"They have a lot of great people working here; I'm very happy that my board members, other people in the county, and the union can get together and get a well-deserved salary increase," Moxley said.