AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Independent School District has proposed plans to give its transportation employees a raise.

This would mean moving the minimum wage for bus drivers from $17 to $21 an hour.

However, the school district will need to take away their drivers’ holiday pay in order to offset the cost.

This has upset some Austin ISD bus drivers, such as Laura Cruz.

“We deserve a raise, but we don’t deserve to have our holiday pay taken away,” she said. “We rely on it, because we’re only nine-month employees.”

Today, the local teachers’ union, Education Austin, hosted a rally outside Thursday’s board meeting to fight back against the proposed cuts and demand even higher pay raises.

One of those in attendance was Nieshon Sandlin, an Austin ISD bus driver for the last 20 years.

“It’s taken a toll on all of us, because we are all worried about our holiday pay, because that is the time that we need to have pay,” she said.

Thinking ahead toward the future, Sandlin is concerned about her holiday pay possibly going away.

“What’s going to happen next year?” she asked. “How am I going to pay my bills? How am I going to take care of my kids?”

According to Education Austin, the district has been handing out holiday pay since the early 1970s.

“It’s been 50 years that the employees of AISD have been enjoying holiday pay,” Education Austin president Ken Zarifis said. “For the district to just swoop in here and take it is egregious.”

Austin ISD told KXAN even without holiday pay, the proposed $21 hourly wage will increase the annual salary of entry-level bus drivers by $2,763.44.

A district spokesperson said, “If we continue to pay holiday pay and increase the rate to $21 an hour, the increase to the district would be over $2.5 million additional dollars. Our goal is to increase bus driver pay to be competitive but do it within our budgetary constraints.”

The proposed wage increase for Austin ISD bus drivers compared to the current wage (Austin ISD chart)
The proposed wage increase for Austin ISD bus drivers compared to the current wage (Austin ISD chart)

However, many longtime bus drivers still aren’t accepting this proposal.

“If that’s the case, then don’t give us a raise,” Cruz concluded. “Leave us our holiday pay; leave it the way it is.”

The proposed pay change will be put to vote by the Austin ISD Board of Trustees in June.