West Michigan district offering $2,500 bonus to new bus drivers

School buses parked in Helena, Mont., ahead of the beginning of the school year, Friday, Aug. 20, 2021. School districts across the country are coping with a shortage of bus drivers, a dilemma that comes even as they struggle to start a new school year during a new surge of the coronavirus pandemic.  (AP Photo/Iris Samuels)
School buses parked in Helena, Mont., ahead of the beginning of the school year, Friday, Aug. 20, 2021. School districts across the country are coping with a shortage of bus drivers, a dilemma that comes even as they struggle to start a new school year during a new surge of the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Iris Samuels) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

MONA SHORES, Mich. – A school district in western Michigan is offering a large bonus to new bus drivers, one of the most lucrative sweeteners among districts desperate to get people behind the wheel.

Mona Shores in Muskegon County said new drivers would get an extra $2,500 after 90 days. The district is offering a $500 finder's fee to employees who recommend a successful new hire.

The shortage “is an issue everywhere, and everyone’s trying to do what they can” to overcome it, Superintendent Bill O’Brien told MLive.com.

“If you think about school districts and all the pieces that go into it, the bus driver could be the first person a kid sees each day and the last person they see at the end of the day,” O'Brien said. “Bus drivers are one of the most important pieces.”

Lansing is offering unlimited public bus passes or monthly $25 gas cards to families. In Ann Arbor, a contractor said starting hourly pay for drivers is $22.34 with bonuses ranging from $500 to $1,000, depending on credentials.

“School bus drivers have been on the Michigan Department of Education’s critical shortage list for a while, even before the pandemic,” said Patrick Dean of Dean Transportation.