BR explores single-tier busing option
BY STACI WILSON
Blue Ridgehas a steep hill to climb to plug a projected $1 million deficit in its budget for the 2012-13 school term.
And the districts two-tier bussing system is on the table.
Currently, middle and high school students are bused separately from elementary students; with the secondary students starting school one hour earlier than the primary grades.
But the board believes a single-tier bussing system has the potential to save the district over $300,000.
Superintendent Robert McTiernan told the board the administration is prepared to make schedule changes if the board opts to move to the single-tier system.
Board President Laurie Bonner said she would like to have a meeting with the bus contractors to discuss the potential changes.
The changes, she said, effect the contractors and the bus routes could be bid out by the board. “The concern is that some may go out of business,” Bonner said.
For the past two years, bussing costs reached $1.1 million annually and the district was reportedly reimbursed at 88 to 90 percent of those costs.
The governor’s proposed budget incorporates transportation reimbursement into a flat rate block grant with social security and basic education – giving school boards the flexibility to administer those funds on a more localized level.
Following a board finance committee meeting Friday evening, school administrators cut over $60,000 from their proposed budgets.
About $4,000 was shaved off the special education budget; $8,000 from the elementary budget; and $17,000 from the middle school.
The high school proposed budget took the greatest hit – decreasing by about $24,000.
Cuts to activities, athletics and co-curricular offerings in the district remain on the table for potential cuts and are being discussed.
Bonner said, “There are high numbers here. We need to entertain the notion to make cuts in some of these positions or salaries.”
Board member Shane Rumage suggested paying a flat rate for the coaching and adviser positions or cut them across the board by a percentage.
Board member Christine Whitney said, “Our salaries are at rock bottom already.” She said salaries for coaches have not been increased over the past few years.
“My only concern is how do we tell a teacher they can’t buy something for the students,” Rumage said, alluding to the cuts made by administrators.
“We cut buffers there,” Whitney said, “There is no fat to trim in the sports’ budget.”
Bonner pointed out the school golf team only had six members yet greens’ fees, etc. cost a lot of money. “Should we take that away from them?” she asked.
Whitney said, “If you start dropping sports, I’m finding another school.”
“There are $96,000 in salaries and $1.1 million we have to save. Where are we going to make this money up?” Bonner said.
“We can no longer be a board that is not going to raise taxes,” Whitney said.
While attempting to save money, the board also looked at the possibility of adding wireless connectivity at the campus at a cost of $42,000.
With the “Bring Your Own Device” to school concept gaining in popularity, wireless, or wi-fi, availability in the school would allow students to access the internet without having to use school computers.
McTiernan said, “There are not enough computers for all students.” He said many middle and high school students have their own personal devices that could be used to access information for classes on the internet.
Board member John Ketchur said, “How will the students feel who don’t have phones or devices?”
Those students, McTiernan said, would be able to use the school computers.
The board’s next business meeting will be held Monday, May 7 at7:30 p.m.in the elementary school cafeteria.