Members of the Mexico School District No. 59 Board of Education were torn over a proposal to change the way the district pays bus drivers.

The proposal recommended a base pay of $16 per hour for school bus drivers on routes and special trips in the coming school year. Current drivers’ rates would be set by adding to the base pay 1% for each year of experience. New hires would also receive a 1% raise for every year of experience with the district for up to 20 years. Drivers’ idle time would be set at $8.60 per hour, which would include the time drivers wait for students during activities.

The board ultimately voted down the proposal by one vote and will schedule a special work session for sometime within the next two weeks in hopes of finding an agreeable proposal before the August pay period.

The proposed system would increase the pay of most bus drivers, but it would decrease the pay of a few drivers assigned to short routes that do not take very much time to complete, Superintendent Zachary Templeton said. It would put drivers’ compensation in line with other support staff, he said.

The existing compensation system isn’t even for all drivers, while the proposal would put Mexico’s driver base pay ahead of other area school districts, Templeton said

“It has to be fixed,” he said. “The system we [have isn’t] an equitable and fair system.”

Drivers are presently paid based on the route they drive. Some routes offer more pay than others, but not all of the routes within the same pay scale are the same length or take the same amount of time to complete. The drivers on the longer or more populated routes are doing more work for less pay than those on shorter routes within the same pay scale, Templeton said.

By paying per hour, everyone will receive fair compensation for the amount of time they work.

The new system added 11% to the districts’ cost of transportation, based on Templeton’s estimates after analyzing a study sample from last March through May.

Ten-year bus driver John Miller spoke against the proposal. He was joined at the meeting by a small group of other district drivers.

Miller is paid about $24 for his route, which takes him about 38 minutes, he said. Switching to an hourly rate would significantly diminish his earnings. “This would be a severe cut in pay,” Miller said.

Board Vice President Heather DeMint wasn’t comfortable with voting for anyone’s pay to decrease and suggested implementing a minimum fee per route. Templeton said that would still create inequity among the drivers and could increase the district’s transportation costs beyond what it could feasibly budget.

Drivers who need to earn more money under the new system could request additional assignments, Templeton said.

The board rejected the proposal with DeMint, Brian Rowe, Scott Nichols and Treasurer Kelli Teel voting against the change. Rowe would like to further analyze the data before voting in favor of the proposal, he said.

The board must decide if it will change pay rates before the coming school year begins, so it will need to schedule a special work session to discuss the issue within the next couple weeks, Templeton said.

In other business

The board approved providing more than $42,300 to match the state’s funds to purchase a greenhouse for the agriculture program at a total cost of about $104,379.25. The board approved adding barber crossover classes to the Hart Career Center’s cosmetology program, as specified by the Missouri State Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners. Students will be required to pay course fees totally $600 that are expected to fully fund the instructor’s wages.