May 30, 2024 - News

Richmond schools is overpaying its bus drivers by $150K every month

School bus with money

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

Bus drivers for Richmond Public Schools are being paid overtime for hours they haven't worked, according to an audit first reported by the blog RVA Dirt.

Why it matters: The errorswhich include drivers not always clocking outare costing RPS an estimated $150,000 per month, an overcompensation the auditor called "an unjustifiable and increasing payroll expense."

The big picture: It also risks violating federal and state wage and labor laws, per the audit.

  • School board members asked Doug Graeff, director of school board audit services, in a May meeting whether there's evidence RPS employees were aware of these issues.
  • His response: "For someone to lean back and say, 'I definitely didn't know that I was being overpaid,' I think that would be a very hard thing to justify."

Flashback: Back in November and March, memos sent to bus drivers reminding them about clocking in and out and overtime pay spurred backlash from employees.

By the numbers: RPS spent $1.7 million on bus driver overtime wages in 2023, up from the $1.04 million it spent in 2022 and nearly seven times what it spent in 2021 (about $259,000), per a school board presentation from Graeff.

  • The district spent more on overtime wages from July of last year to this April ($1.4 million) than it did for all of FY2019.
  • It's estimated to be $1.8 million by June 30, the end of FY2024.

The audit also found that drivers work 42.5 hours per week but are being paid for 70.

  • The transportation department accounted for 65% of overtime wages across all of RPS' hourly employees from Oct. 1 to Jan. 31.
  • About half of the overtime hours and wages within the transportation department are from bus drivers and roughly 43% from bus monitors.

Catch up quick: In April, the board deferred the following audit recommendations — among others — until the end of June:

  • Paying hourly employees for the actual time worked.
  • Self-reporting to Office of Inspector General that "funds may have been misappropriated."
  • Requiring drivers to clock in and out.

What's next: In June meetings, the school board is expected to discuss adopting the audit recommendations starting in July.

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