Tentative Agreement Between District And Union Calls For 6% Pay Increase For Bus Drivers And Other Service Employees

Agreement also includes $1,000 critical-shortage bonus for hard-to-fill positions  

TAVARES – Lake County Schools has reached an agreement with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) for a 6-percent increase in its pay scale for all bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers and other classified employees. The agreement also includes a $1,000 critical shortage bonus for bus drivers and other hard-to-fill positions, along with the state-mandated increase to a $15 minimum hourly wage.
District leaders are hoping the increases will help recruit and retain bus drivers and other employees at a time when shortages are making headlines across the country.
“These employees are essential to the work we do in support of our students,” Superintendent Diane Kornegay said. “They are valued and appreciated and the pay increase is very well deserved.”
Under the proposed agreement, with ratification and School Board approval, the pay scale increase means that the starting pay for every classified position would increase by at least 6-percent and every existing classified employee would see at least a 6-percent raise. Depending on their current rate of pay, some employees would see increases of a larger percentage as the district boosts the minimum hourly wage up to the state-mandated $15.
District recruiters are particularly excited about the $1,000 critical shortage bonus, which provides $500 each semester for bus drivers and other hard-to-fill positions. Lake is among many school districts in Central Florida and around the nation starting the school year with a bus driver shortage. Lake ended last year short 33 drivers and hovers around the same number now. The district has 11 lead drivers who will fill some of those positions until additional drivers are hired.
“I plan to create engaging ads and social media campaigns to promote the upcoming raise as soon as the agreement is ratified,” said Jamie West, non-instructional recruitment partner for the district. “We anticipate the applicant numbers to increase due to the competitive pay changes. We also predict that school bus drivers will see the largest turnaround when it comes to quantity of applicants due to this pay increase and the supplemental bonuses for the position.”
“Compensation was difficult with the new state mandate of $15 an hour,” SEIU President Kim Cronin said. “Although it is well deserved, many of our employees’ lives will be changed with the new mandate. The generous increase to the pay scale of 6 percent will help all employees. We still have work to do on the pay scale, especially for supervisory positions and higher skilled jobs.”
Another financial win: Employees will see no increase in their contributions to health insurance in the 2022-23 school year.
“There are so many successes to celebrate within this tentatively agreed-upon contract,” said School Board Chairman Stephanie Luke. “The message that hopefully gets conveyed is how important all of our people are to our students and our community.”
Classified employees are expected to vote on the plan in September. The pay increases would go into effect following ratification and school board approval.