Portland High School on Cumberland Avenue. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Portland’s school board has agreed to a new union contract that raises wages for bus drivers, cooks and other staff within the city’s schools.

The Board of Public Education voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the two-year contract, retroactive to July 2021 and running to June 2023.

That contract with the Benefit Association of School Employees — which represents bus drivers and transportation staff, food service workers, computer technicians, accounting specialists and administrative assistants — raises the base wage for all classes of workers, the lowest of which will be set at $15 an hour.

Additionally, the contract provides staff with a 2.5 percent cost-of-living increase for each year of the contract

The school system hopes the more competitive wages under the contract will address staffing shortages that have become a common fixture within the economy in the second year of the pandemic.

The union’s president, Elizabeth Bryant, said the new contract was “acceptable” to the workers, as well as Portland taxpayers.

School board member Adam Burk said the contract improves pay equity across the board, which recognizes the “essential role” that the union workers play within the school system. Superintendent Xavier Botana echoed that statement, calling the new contract “fair.”