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How one school bus driver made $124,000 last year

<i>WTVR via CNN Newsource</i><br/>Keon Shim is the acting business manager of the union that represents Richmond transportation workers.
WTVR via CNN Newsource
Keon Shim is the acting business manager of the union that represents Richmond transportation workers.

By Tyler Layne

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    RICHMOND, Virginia (WTVR) — New data shared with CBS 6 revealed some Richmond Public Schools bus drivers made almost as much money in overtime pay as they did in regular wages in recent years.

One driver made $7,100 in overtime in 2019 – and $33,000 in 2024. Another driver made $5,600 in overtime in 2019 – and $20,000 in 2024.

Calculating overtime and regular pay, one driver made $69,000 in 2019 and $124,000 last year. Another drive went from making $40,000 in 2019 to $87,000 this year.

Keep in mind that bus drivers’ base pay did increase over those years, which would explain some of the increase.

But the school board auditor says bus drivers are logging hours they’re not actually working, and in response to a question posed by the school board chair during a board meeting, he said they’re doing it knowingly.

Auditor Doug Graeff found the district’s current system and procedures allow drivers to clock an automatic two hours of overtime for each after-school shift per day – even if they don’t drive for those full two hours and even if they don’t complete a regular eight-hour shift before that.

“Yeah, sometimes there’s an incentive there to pay them a little more than what they actually worked,” said Keon Shim, the acting business manager of the union that represents Richmond transportation workers.

Shim said the automatic two hours is in place to encourage drivers to pick up undesirable shifts that run later into the evening.

“On average, you’re talking about maybe $80 per run. So, you’re telling me it’s not worth $80 to transfer kids home safely after school?” Shim said. “And try dealing with those kids on the bus every day. That alone is not easy.”

Graeff presented recommendations to the school board to update protocols to pay drivers for actual time worked and make them clock in and out, which is not currently required.

Board members were presented with versions of the audit over the past several months, but members were skeptical of the findings and suggested the report was incomplete. So, the board has repeatedly delayed taking action.

In the meantime, Graeff filed reports of alleged abuse of taxpayer dollars to city and state investigators.

A spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Education said VDOE was “very concerned about the alleged misuse of funds.”

Shim believes the fault shouldn’t be placed on the drivers.

“People clocking in but not clocking out has been a practice for many, many years,” Shim said. “They feel like they’re being attacked because they’re not doing anything wrong.”

“In your opinion, is $124,000 justified for a bus driver because of how much overtime they’re making?” reporter Tyler Layne asked.

“It’s only justified according to the contracts,” Shim said.

Beginning in 2022, the district changed most drivers’ contracts from a 6-hour day to an 8-hour day.

In 2019, 31 drivers had an 8-hour day contract, and 88 had a 6-hour day contract. In 2024, 121 drivers have an 8-hour day contract, and nine drivers have a 6-hour day contract.

The change meant drivers had to do two extra hours of work per day to start receiving overtime pay.

“Not everybody has enough work for eight hours,” Shim said.

In March, the administration attempted to take steps to try and correct the problem, directing drivers to clock in and out and saying they could only start collecting overtime once they hit 40 hours in the week.

The auditor said this was “not received well” by bus drivers or the union.

In April, the school board paused the administration’s directive and still has yet to decide how to move forward.

Meanwhile, Shim said bus drivers feel like their “livelihoods are on the chopping block.”

“My drivers are so anxious right now because they don’t know what their future lies,” Shim said.

Graeff estimated the district will spend $1.8 million this year in overtime for drivers.

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