Longview ISD is raising pay for transportation employees to stay competitive amid a shortage of bus drivers.

The board approved an increase Wednesday in bus driver pay from an $18.75 to $19.50 hourly minimum. Pay for substitute bus drivers went from $15 to $17 hourly minimum.

Bus monitors’ minimum hourly pay was increased from $11.50 to $15, while midpoint pay went from $14 to $17.50 and maximum pay increased from $16.50 to $20.

Substitute bus monitors now will make $12 an hour compared with $9.05 previously.

Assistant Superintendent James Hockenberry said it was a simple decision to raise pay — the district wants to stay competitive in the local market.

“We have a shortage of drivers, and I think we’re like most districts — finding bus drivers is a difficult task,” he said. “We felt like we needed to increase our current pay to remain competitive and recruit those workers into the district.”

Hockenberry said the need for drivers is not extreme, but there are days when drivers are out and substitutes can’t be found, so double routes are run.

“These are necessary steps to keep us competitive and try to draw drivers and transportation workers to the district,” he said. “When you combine this with our incentive plan, there’s a real chance for high pay.”

Board President Shan Bauer said keeping essential workers, such as bus drivers, in the district is as important as keeping teachers.

“Our students depend on that transportation,” she said. “And when our bus drivers don’t line up with the number of routes we have, our students aren’t able to rely on that dependable transportation.”

The board also approved using $750,000 in grant funding to purchase a centralized enrollment software.

Bauer said the program will allow for easier access and a better enrollment system versus having different software at each campus. She said it also decreases room for error.

Additionally, the district approved a resolution authorizing the Longview city manager to execute and deliver a letter confirming that Longview ISD has no objection to the designation of a foreign trade zone as part of the economic development incentive package negotiated by the Longview Economic Development Corp. and designated Project Double.

LEDCO’s board Wednesday voted unanimously to a series of measures that would provide incentives for Gap Inc. to build a distribution facility in Longview.

Bauer said the board’s vote shows its support for the project and its overall benefits for the city.

“(The vote is) making sure that we’re most effective in making sure that companies would like to build such a huge factory here and bring the city jobs,” she said. “It is working with the city and county to make sure that companies feel more encouraged to plant roots here. It’s making sure we all do our part to make sure that we are inviting and making companies want to settle here.”

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Kristen is the News-Journal's education reporter. A Longview native, she got a journalism degree and a graduate certificate at Texas Tech University. She covers a variety of issues, including school finance, board meetings and happenings at local schools.