Districts prepare for possibility of dropping bus service

INDIANAPOLIS - Cash-strapped school districts are getting more creative when it comes to providing transportation to students.

A new law allows schools to scrap busing altogether, provided they give the state of Indiana a three-year notice, Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney reported.

Danville, Westfield Washington and MSD Decatur Township have all provided three-year notice, according to Indiana Department of Education spokesman Daniel Altman.

However, all three school districts say it's unlikely they will have to cut transportation altogether in 2017.

"We felt the best thing to do is get the clock started running for our school corporation to protect ourselves, so we have every option available if necessary," Matt Steward, Danville school board president, said.

In Danville, they have 2,600 students and 45 buses, and transportation makes up about 4 percent of the district's overall budget.

Tax caps will cause the district to lose $800,000 in 2014, including about $110,000 in transportation dollars.

"All school corporations are facing tight budgets," said Steward, who explained the biggest transportation costs include the buses, fuel, labor and maintenance.

MSD Decatur Township Superintendent Dr. Matt Prusiecki said he is confident they will not have to ditch busing, since they just passed a referendum by a 64 percent vote.

"We have full intention to provide transportation," Prusiecki said.

Prusiecki said the district filed notice with the state back in February, before the referendum passed, but they do not have plans to withdraw their request.

"February 2017 is out there in the distance, and a lot of things can happen," Prusiecki said. "There's always the concern over state funding."

Nick Verhoff, Westfield Washington schools executive director of business and operations, said the district should have adequate funding for transportation for the next three years.

"The state legislature instituted a three-year fix by restoring the flexibility needed to support the transportation budget," Verhoff said. "We have not rescinded our resolution in the hopes that a more permanent solution is forthcoming. The current solution does not give us more money, only more flexibility. Budgets will continue to be very tight in the near future."

The Indiana Department of Education said school districts can petition the state to skip the three-year waiting period.

"For the upcoming school year, I think it's important for parents to realize there aren't going to be any changes for the schools this year," said Altman.
 

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