VINCENT - The buses won't run at Warren High School in the upcoming school year.
A motion to provide high school busing - a service not required by state law - for 2012-13 was rejected 3-2 by the Warren Local Board of Education Thursday, with board President Bob Allen and member John Nichols voting in favor of it.
Board members voting against the measure said they would like to restore busing but could not vote to do it without additional revenue. Busing was among multiple cuts the board made last year, including reductions in teaching positions, in order to free up money to repair aging facilities.
EVAN BEVINS The Marietta Times
Warren High School freshman Zac Burkhardt gets into his mother’s car around 3:30 p.m. Thursday. Without high school busing, Burkhardt usually isn’t picked up until about that time or later, even though school lets out at 3:12.
"I think every single one of those cuts was harmful," said board Vice President Debbie West. "I am sorry that I cannot support bringing back busing or any of the other cuts until we address the facilities."
Prior to the vote, Superintendent Tom Gibbs presented figures to the board showing it would cost an estimated $720,509.20 to $797,119.61 to reinstate high school busing. However, the amount could drop to about $625,000 if a less aggressive bus replacement plan was pursued.
But even if all 86 of the students who left the district this year for open enrollment or online schools returned, they would bring with them about half a million dollars, leaving the district $125,000 to nearly $300,000 short, Gibbs said. He said it is unlikely that all of those students left due to the loss of busing, and even if they did, there is no guarantee they would come back if it was restored.
At a glance
Estimated costs to restore busing at Warren High School
Salaries - $117,427.28 (with seven routes), $152,789.98 (with nine).
Benefits - $135,274.94 (seven), $176,522.65 (nine).
Maintenance and fuel costs - $182,806.98.
Bus replacement - $285,000.
Total - $720,509.20 (seven), $797,119?61 (nine), $625,000 (if bus replacement plan is reduced).
Source: Warren Superintendent Tom Gibbs.
Board member Sidney Brackenridge said the district cannot count on any additional money from returning students, state funding or a new levy.
"You don't anticipate any revenue," he said. "But you better anticipate all expenses."
Allen previously voted to eliminate busing, echoing other board members in saying it was a financial decision he'd rather not have to make. On Thursday, he supported restoring the service but letting residents know new money would be needed to continue it beyond the upcoming year.
"I would like to see us bring busing back for one year with the understanding that we have to have additional revenues," he said.
Nichols warned voters might not support a bond issue or levy in the fall if busing wasn't offered.
"I think we're going to struggle to get anything passed in November if the buses are not running," he said.
Before the board voted, Fleming resident Cliff Pettey urged the board to restore busing or risk losing more students and the funding that goes with them.
"The impact of that is going to be greater, and it's going to be harder to reverse," he said.
After the meeting, Pettey said he was disappointed in the board's decision.
"I think it's very important for the students," he said.
Warren High School freshman Zac Burkhardt was sitting in front of the school Thursday afternoon waiting for his mother to pick him up. School lets out at 3:12 p.m., but he said it's usually 3:30 or later when she arrives because she has to wait for his sisters to get home from Little Hocking Elementary.
"I wish there was busing," Burkhardt said. "It'd be so much easier."
His mother, Lara Burkhardt, agreed, noting the added expense of driving to the high school.
"In a week's time, I spend about $75 on gas," she said.
Another freshman, Zach Wellspring, said he doesn't mind not having busing.
"For one, you're not as crowded; it's more relaxed," he said, noting his family has worked out a carpooling arrangement.
His mother, Rhonda Wellspring of Warren Township, said she would like to see busing restored.
"It's an extra expense for families. It's an inconvenience for working families," she said.
In other business Thursday:
Gibbs asked the board for some direction on what approach they'd like to take in seeking new revenue on the November ballot.
Among the options discussed were a substitute levy that would replace the district's current 6.27-mill emergency levy with a 12.27-mill levy to maintain that revenue and add more to cover approximately $1.25 million a year in facility repairs and improvements; a minimum 6-mill permanent improvement levy that could not be used for anything other than items with a useful life of five or more years; or a bond issue to construct a new high school, coupled with an expanded permanent improvement levy to repair the existing Warren and Little Hocking elementaries.
The total for the third option could be an estimated 6.5 mills, Gibbs said. Under that proposal, Barlow-Vincent Elementary School would be demolished and those students moved to the current high school.
Another possibility was building a grade six through 12 facility to relieve the burden on the elementary schools by moving grades six through eight to the new building. That plan would involve razing both Barlow-Vincent and the current high school.
Voters in the district have rejected four attempts to pass a bond issue to build all new schools in the district and one to construct three new elementary schools and a middle school. One bone of contention was the 28-year payback of the bond issue, so Gibbs proposed making any new bond issue for 20 years instead.
Treasurer Melcie Wells presented the district's updated five-year forecast, which shows deficit spending of $56,294 this year, growing to more than $5 million by fiscal year 2016. A negative cash balance of more than $1.6 million is projected by fiscal year 2015.
The board approved the resignation of Little Hocking Elementary Principal Barbara Augustine and her hiring as a guidance counselor at the high school for the upcoming year. Because she will be working fewer days, her salary will be reduced, Gibbs said.