DONALDSONVILLE — The Ascension Parish School Board this week approved paying stipends to four bus driver coordinators and 28 bus driver team leaders in an effort to retain its bus drivers and assist school staff in solving day-to-day issues that arise on bus routes.

At its meeting Tuesday, the School Board approved paying a $5,000 annual stipend, beginning in January, to a bus driver coordinator for each of the four "feeder school" systems, meaning the network of primary and middle schools that feed into the four high schools in the district.

The board also approved a $1,000 annual stipend, beginning in August 2018, to a bus driver team leader at each of the 28 schools.

The new positions will be filled by current bus drivers.

Earlier this month, Chad Lynch, director of planning and construction for the school district, had presented the stipend plan to the board's Transportation Committee, which recommended it to the full board for approval.

About 20 years ago, the school district went from a contractor system, with drivers owning their own buses, to one in which drivers are employees and the school system purchases the buses, Lynch said then.

"Retirements are about to hit us," said Lynch.

The new positions would bring much-needed help to principals and assistant principals, as well as provide incentives for experienced drivers to stay, he said.

Also on Tuesday, the district's director of business services, Diane Allison, reported that October's sales tax revenues of approximately $5.3 million were up from the  approximately $5 million of the month before, but below the $5.7 million budgeted for October.

"The local economy is approaching the pre-CF Industries plant expansion days, when revenue from retail sales exceeded revenue from the plants and their supporting businesses," Allison said in her monthly report. 

Monthly sales tax revenues for the School Board reached a peak of approximately $7.6 million at one point, during the approximately two-year expansion of the CF Industries plant that was completed in early 2016. 

Follow Ellyn Couvillion on Twitter, @EllynCouvillion.