The Mexico School District No. 59 Board of Education was presented late last month with a proposal to switch bus drivers from route-based pay to hourly pay. That proposal was ultimately voted down, with the board scheduling a work session to discuss the matter before the first day of the 2019-20 school year. The board came to a consensus Monday, which increased the base pay rate from the original proposal.

Board president Dustin Pascoe moved for an $18.50 hourly base, with a 1% increase based on years of experience for their regular bus route. They also would be guaranteed 1.5 hours of pay for both their morning and afternoon routes, even if the route may take an hour to 75 minutes to complete. Drivers who bus students on field trips or for sporting events will receive $12 per hour for driving time and $9.25 per hour for idle time. This will increase the district's transportation costs by 13%.

"That's assuming they're only working an hour-and-a-half and take no trips,” Templeton said. "Either way, the trips [pay rate] is better than what they're currently making."

The board approved the proposal 6-0. Vice President Heather DeMint was absent from Monday's meeting.

The proposal voted down in July was a $16 base, with 1% yearly increases based on experience, $16 per hour for trips and $8.60 for idle time. The initial proposal as presented by Superintendent Zach Templeton would have increased the transportation budget by 11%. It did not include a guaranteed minimum pay per route and some drivers would have seen a significant pay decrease under this plan.

Under the route-based payment system, the drivers were paid by route-rates. Under the proposed hourly pay system, a driver will clock-in, do their pre-route checks, drive the route and do post-route cleaning and then clock out.

"If it takes them two hours, they get paid for two hours. If it takes them an hour and 15 minutes, they get paid for an hour-and-a-half," Templeton said.

Board treasurer Kelli Teel asked if Pascoe's proposal would fix the potential income losses drivers were facing under the $16 per hour proposal. The guaranteed 3 hours total clears up income issues for most drivers, Templeton said.

Under the guaranteed 90 minutes of pay based on the $18.50 rate, new drives are assured $27.75 for mornings and evenings. Higher pay rates are based on years of experience. Full-time district staff members will receive time-and-a-half when driving a bus.

Board member Brian Rowe wondered if this would make the district competitive in attracting drivers. The $18.50 rate would put the district at the top of the pay scale for drivers when compared to other area districts.

"I don't know if it's going to make it any easier to hire, but it can't hurt," Pascoe said.

Drivers also have the option of becoming full-time staff for the district if they are looking for more work, such as custodial or food service, Templeton said. "A lot of our drivers do work for us, otherwise," he said.

Transportation Director Curt Jackson said the $18.50 rate will make the Mexico district competitive.

"Hannibal is in the $12-13 range. When I called Apple Bus, they're paying about $14. With us looking at $18.50, I think we're going to be at the top," Templeton said.

The elementary reconfiguration and limited number of bus drivers caused the elimination of one bus route, with students transferring to other routes.

"I think this addresses most of our needs,” Pascoe said. “We did want to make sure we weren't penalizing people who were doing their job. We want to improve our ability to recruit people without crippling the budget for transportation. There always is some give-and-take, I guess.”