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County seeks to increase bus driver pay

Chautauqua County is looking to address its shortage of bus drivers by raising their pay.

During the legislature’s Administrative Services Committee meeting, lawmakers passed a resolution re-allocating the salary grade for bus driver II from $14.44 an hour to $16.66 an hour. This would be for all new full, part-time and substitute drivers.

“We’re having a hard time getting entry level bus drivers,” explained Brad Bentley, county Department of Public Facilities Director. “The $14.44 an hour is not a tremendously favorable wage for attracting people with a CDL license and a passenger endorsement to drive our buses.”

According to Bentley, the higher wage will cost about $100,000 but the county is planning on using federal funds to cover some of the overages in the CARTS budget. He believes in the long term they will be able to absorb the higher costs in their budget, once the federal funds are no longer available.

Bentley believes this pay increase is needed. “If we don’t do this, we will not able to provide the services that our community needs to do the routes we need. We would have to scale back our services. This includes not just getting people to work but medical transport rides, dialysis rides, people wanting to get to their doctor’s appointments. We do on-demand rides. We really need to get these drivers in here and get a wage that will support us getting qualified drivers,” he said.

The resolution was also discussed in the legislature’s Public Facilities Committee meeting. There, Chairman John Hemmer, R-Westfield, noted that existing bus drivers will have their pay increased as well, by having them “move up a step” to grade four pay.

Both committees unanimously backed the resolution. It will now be sent to the full legislature for final approval.

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