Bus fees not planned by schools

Published 5:00 am Thursday, May 1, 2003

School districts here have no plans to follow a national trendof charging fees for busing students to and from school, officialssaid.

“We have never even considered that in Lincoln County,” saidTransportation Director Donald Case. “The way we’re set up here,being so rural, I think it would be a matter of last resort.”

Brookhaven School District officials agreed that charging feeshad never been viewed as an option for solving budget crunches.

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“It has not been discussed because of my board’s commitment tooffer a free and good, sound public education,” said the district’ssuperintendent, Dr. Sam Bounds.

Cash-strapped public schools in nine states have begun chargingbusing fees to raise money, a decision that has some parents acrossthe country outraged.

Most of those districts have opted to charge busing fees ratherthan lose teachers.

“I was surprised to see that some districts are going thatroute,” Case said, “but I can understand doing that if thealternative is losing teachers.”

Some districts in the state have even opted to contract out busservices rather than have the burden placed upon the district,according to Gabe Terrell, transportation director for theBrookhaven School District.

Case said the county transportation budget for last year was$833,536, or eight percent of the district’s total budget. TheBrookhaven School District’s transportation budget is around$700,000, or about six percent of the total budget.

The county schools’ transportation budget does not include thepurchase of new buses when they become necessary. The district’sBoard of Education voted last week to purchase four buses at a costof $180,400. School buses cost around $45,000 each. The purchaseprice will be offset a little by the sale of the four buses theywill replace.

More than 2,000 students in the Lincoln County School Districtand about 1,800 in the Brookhaven School District rely on schoolbuses to take them to and from school every day. Those studentsmake up about 71 percent of the Lincoln County schools’ population,and around 56 percent in the Brookhaven School District.

The county district manages and operates 34 buses, with 12 beingused at Loyd Star, eight each at Bogue Chitto and Enterprise, andsix at West Lincoln.

That number is down from the 39 buses operated a few years ago.In recent years, Case said, the district has reorganized its busroutes to optimize the number of students on each bus. This allowedthem to remove five buses from the route list.

“We’re getting more out of our buses now than we were,” hesaid.

Brookhaven schools use 33 buses for transporting students,including two special buses for handicapped students.