Goshen News, Goshen, IN

January 16, 2013

Goshen school board expects huge cut in bus funds

By JOHN KLINE
THE GOSHEN NEWS

GOSHEN — School transportation costs for Goshen Community Schools could become a big issue next school year if predictions about the impact of property tax caps on the corporation’s transportation budget prove accurate.

According to corporation Treasurer Jerry Hawkins, the corporation’s transportation budget stands to take a 42 percent reduction next school year due to the caps on property taxes established by the state. That, he said, will amount to about $800,000 being removed from the total transportation budget of approximately $2.5 million.

“That is huge,” Hawkins said of the predicted revenue loss. “That is a significant thing. So I think it is something important for us to look at right away.”

In discussing how the corporation will be able to deal with such a reduction in transportation funds, several suggestions were thrown out by board members, including strictly limiting or cutting all school field trips and increasing the “walk zone” areas of each school, which currently require all students with homes located within a one mile radius of their school to walk or find alternate transportation, rather than being bussed by the corporation.

Even so, Robert Evans, GCS assistant superintendent of transportation and educational services, said that no amount of reductions in field trips or busing routes will likely be able to make up that $800,000 loss, leading to possible suggestions of finding the money elsewhere, such as the corporation’s general fund.

“Trying to cut transportation by 40 percent is going to gut the program,” Evans said. “It’s just not possible.”

According to GCS Superintendent Diane Woodworth, there would be a possibility of taking money out of the general fund to help with transportation costs initially, but it would only be a quick fix, as the general fund is not designed to handle that kind of additional cost for long periods of time without affecting other areas.

In the meantime, Woodworth indicated that she will be putting together a special committee to look at what the corporation can do in the long run to maintain its transportation program with as little pain as possible.

Additional instructional time considered

In other business, board members discussed the possibility of adding approximately 25 minutes per day to all elementary schools and an additional 15 minutes per day to both the middle school and high school in an effort to incorporate additional instructional and enrichment time.

According to Woodworth, the call for the extended instructional time stems from the recent addition of 30 minutes of instructional time per day at Chandler Elementary School following the school’s forced restructuring in 2009 due to low performance scores. Since that time, Woodworth noted that other elementary school principals have expressed interest in the possibility.

According to Tamra Ummel, executive director of elementary education, by adding instructional minutes to the school day at all levels, every school will be able to incorporate remediation and/or enrichment time for all students. Woodworth added that there are available minutes in the teacher work week to accomplish this without additional costs in salaries, while still meeting contractual obligations for prep time and duty-free lunches for teaching staff.

Board elections

Board members Monday voted to elect Jane Troup as president for 2013. Board member Jon Jesse was elected vice president for the year, and Dan West was elected secretary. New board members Robert Duell and James Ramer were each sworn in and took their oaths of office, as did newly re-elected board member Cathie Cripe. The board then reappointed Jerry Hawkins as the school corporation treasurer for 2013. The law firm Davis & Roose was also once again selected to serve as the corporation’s legal representative for the new year.