Leonardtown, MD — The Commissioners of St. Mary’s County have unanimously approved a two-percent pay raise for non-public school bus drivers. The commissioners had originally not budgeted the increase but changed their minds at their Aug. 23 meeting.

St. Mary’s County is somewhat unique in that they have historically provided transportation for parochial and private schools. The county hires 36 buses (with four spares and three for contingencies). Those buses transport more than 2,000 students to 12 schools.

The commissioners agreed to the pay increase after learning from Director of Public Works and Transportation George Erichsen that the Board of Education had approved a two-percent increase for public school bus drivers.

Commissioner Todd Morgan [R – 4th District], a frequent critic of the public school system, said he had not heard about that during budget deliberations and wondered if the school board had hidden the raise somewhere in the budget. The commissioners felt forced to give the increase to their bus drivers in the interest of fairness and equity to them.

Commissioner John O’Connor [R – 3rd District] at first expressed reluctance to approve the raise but eventually went along. He said this was the third occasion recently where they have been asked to approve increases in items that were budgeted to begin July 1.

The cost to the county for the two-percent increase is $14,000 according to Erichsen. He said the school transportation budget has enough in it to absorb that amount without using reserve funds.

Commissioner Mike Hewitt [R – 2nd District] noted the financial benefit to the county for all of the students who attend parochial and private schools.

O’Connor wondered why there was extra money in the budget. Erichsen said the monies to be used were budgeted for the possible need for an extra bus route which did not materialize.

Speaking of school buses – Morgan and Commissioner President Randy Guy [R] reminded motorists that school opens Wednesday, Aug, 24 and they should be on the lookout for them. Morgan said the police would be vigilant in watching out for motorists who disobey regulations requiring stopping for school buses.

Contact Dick Myers @ dick.myers@thebaynet.com