District considering single bus route

The Board of Education is considering adopting a single bus run and eliminating a handful of non-instructional positions as it attempts to put together its budget for next year.

During a budget workshop Monday night, board members discussed several proposed cuts including going to a one-tier transportation system, eliminating an electronic technician position and having one microcomputer specialist from BOCES, reducing the number of administrative typists to five instead of six and reducing the custodians to 10 instead of 11.

The goal of the one-tier transportation system is to have all the students from all three schools on the buses at the same time.  John Steves, transportation directorm created possible new bus routes for this one-tier system.  He included two three-quarter mile walk zones around the elementary school and the high school. He estimated that there would be about 300 students that would able to walk to school.  The out of district students were left out of the equation for now. Even with those eliminations, Steves created 14 new bus routes, using every vehicle in the garage.

Not all the routes will have the three buildings in mind.  Some may only have two and some stops will be combined to save on time as well. 

“All 14 runs are within an hour. The longest [run] was like an hour and three minutes,” said Steves.

Even with every vehicle being used, Steves is still short a vehicle. He provided Superintendent Mark Bessen and Business Manager Cathy Somich a list of the fleet with age and mileage included. 

“We are running an older fleet, which means we are going to have to do some maintenance on some of the older buses to keep them in code with the Department of Transportation,” Steves said

There will be no trade-ins for the 2014-2015 year, and there will be an additional purchase of a 65 passenger handicap accessible bus.  The goal is to get three new buses for this year to add to the fleet. 

“We would like to keep our fleet at a level balance,” Bessen said, “We would like all our buses to be newer at some point.  We would be able to save on maintenance costs once our older buses get replaced.”

Looking into the 2015-2016 year, Bessen would like to start trading in the oldest buses and replacing them with new ones.  “We don’t want a big spike in cost, we would like to use our older buses for one more year and then next year, get three new buses.”

There are many benefits to changing the bus system, officials said. The morning and afternoon schedules will be changed in order to let all the students be in and out of school around the same time. 

There was concern, however, about sport schedules and field trips. 

“If all the buses are to be used, how will all day field trips be affected?  Some of the field trips don’t get back until after school is out,” Board member Audrey Hicks asked.

“Things are going to have to change in that aspect,” Bessen said, “field trips are going to have to be back before school lets out.  Other schools do it and so can Granville.”

The sport events can be scheduled earlier as well.  With just one bus run, the events can be earlier and the athletes can stay after school and get any help they need while they wait for the game to start. 

“If needed, we can work with the surrounding schools to borrow a bus,” Bessen said, “it will be the same bus driver, but the side of the bus might say Argyle instead of Granville.”

Another topic of discussion was the additional revenue from state aid. Officials learned the district will receive an additional $400,000 in aid. With the increase in the amount the state is giving, the district will be able to remain financial viable for four years instead of the three the board had originally estimated. 

Members still haven’t settled on the exact increase to the tax levy.

Bessen encouraged the board to help choose a percentage to increase the tax levy base.  In order to hold onto the fund balance, an increase in the tax levy base is needed. 

“We would be missing an opportunity to start growing our fund base so four or five years down the road, we don’t end up burning the fund balance,” Somich stated. 

The highest percentage increase allowed under the tax cap is 4.3 percent.  Some felt that a 4.3 percent increase  would be too high of an amount to ask the community to bear at the moment. 

“We have to be responsible and pick a number the community will wrap their heart around and not give them a number that’s insulting and they can’t afford.  The community does a lot for the kids,” said Bessen.

With some discussion and numbers being thrown out, the majority agreed to start at a 2.5 percent increase.  In two weeks, they Board will reconvene to discuss the tax levy.  The board encourages the community to come to the meeting and discuss what they can afford.

The next meeting will be held Monday, April 21 at 7 p.m.

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