INDIANAPOLIS ù School officials and state legislators from around the state are searching for ways to keep the school buses running — and children safe on the streets — pending the loss of millions of dollars for school transportation.
More than 50 school districts in Indiana stand to lose at least 20 percent of their revenues for transportation, new buses and other big-ticket projects under a new law that requires them to first pay off their debts.
The law, slated to go into effect later this year, comes as many cash-strapped districts are still struggling to adjust to property tax caps passed by lawmakers in 2008.
The new law would severely impact the schools in counties that saw dramatic drops in the value of their commercial and industrial bases last year — a drop that has already cut deeply into the taxes they collect to keep buses running and repair leaky roofs.
Goshen Community Schools, for example, stands to lose 47 percent of its revenue for transportation and capital projects, or a $3.5 million loss. School officials, who’ve already seen a 20 percent drop in property tax revenues due to the tax caps, have cut back bus routes and informed more children they’ll have to walk or find another way to get to school.
“This is a working community,” said Goshen Superintendent Diane Woodworth. “We know parents have to leave home before their kids go off to school, so they rely on those school busses.”
Woodworth has asked teachers to urge students affected by the bus cuts to stay on the sidewalks when they walk to school — especially on dark, winter mornings when streets are snow-covered and slick. School nurses have stocked extra clothing for children who arrive wet after walking through rain or melting snow.
“It’s frightening some mornings to see those children out walking in the dark,” Woodworth said. “I just pray, ‘Please, children, stay on those sidewalks.’”