Board Approves New Elementary Schedule and Larger Tax Increase
All three elementary schools will start at 8:45 a.m. and dismiss at 3:30 p.m., aided by the purchase of four additional buses. A half-mill tax increase to the 2012-2013 budget will help pay for the vehicle purchases and operation expenses.
Monday's special school board meeting ended with a set schedule for the elementary schools and a slightly larger tax increase for the 2012-2013 budget.
As adopted in the new resolution, Willow Dale, McDonald and Davis Elementary will all begin the school day at 8:45 a.m. and end at 3:30 p.m. The district will purchase four new buses and retain five, adding a total of nine vehicles to the fleet to assist with transporting the elementary students. The directors also mandated that no elementary student spend more than 40 minutes on the bus.
In order to pay for the purchase of the new buses and their operating expenses, including drivers, a mechanic, projected parts for repair and the cost of adding security measures to a parking lot that the district will use to store the surplus vehicles, a .56 mill increase has been added to the Act 1 index raise in the 2012-2013 budget, for a total tax of 116.07 mills, or 2.49 percent. In dollars, the additional increase averages to about $14.78 more for taxpayers, for a grand total average increase of approximately $65. A mill equals a dollar tax on every $1,000 of assessed property value.
The extra half-mill will help fund the ongoing operating costs for the buses. The district will also receive social security reimbursements and transportation subsidies from the state.
The approximate $325,000 one-time cost for the purchase of the vehicles will will come from the district's reserve funds. The move basically moves up the district's vehicle purchase schedule, meaning that the cost will be offset by the fact that no major vehicle purchases will be made next year, according to Centennial Business Administrator Chris Berdnik.
School director Jane Schrader Lynch marveled that the administration was able to come up with a possible solution during a 30 minute recess, something the ad hoc committee was unable to do in two weeks. The reason the ad hoc committee could not reach a similar solution, she said, is because it was held back by a stricter guideline to keep the options budget neutral.
"This is a disgrace," she said. "After all these meetings and spending long hours trying to produce something, we have an impasse tonight and we get a solution in 30 minutes."
With the 5-4 vote, the school board set the parameters for the elementary schedule and gave transportation director Wayne Robinson the summer to figure out a plan. As it stands, with the additional busing for students at Nativity of Our Lord and Our Lady of Good Counsel, Robinson said that some students may take 60 minutes to ride the bus home.
Berdnik stated that it would take about six months to bid out and purchase the buses and that the district can rent buses until the new vehicles are added to the fleet. The district also has to find drivers willing to work part time, since the buses will only be used for the elementary routes.
The compromise seemed agreeable to most of the parents in the audience, who took turns explaining to the school directors that the 3:45 p.m. dismissal time would dramatically alter their home lives. There were a few, however, who disagreed with the proposal, especially since there was no guarantee that some children would not have bus rides of more than 45 minutes.
"It would be irresponsile and shortsighted to spend more money just to save 15 minutes," said Emily Cohen, who participated in the ad hoc committee. "I am in full support of the staggered schedule. I do have children that would be impacted by it, and I think everyone can adjust."
Director David Shafter said the guarantee comes from the school board's resolution that no child spend more than 40 minutes on the bus. It's up to the transportation department to find a way to make it work, he said.