School districts struggle to find money for bus service
School districts across Indiana are struggling to pay for bus service. Property tax caps limit the amount of money coming in while expenses keep going up.
Around 2,800 students go to Beech Grove Public Schools, with more than half riding the bus to school. It is a service the school system wants to continue to offer, but like many school systems across the state, it is being forced to reassess that.
"Because of the property tax caps, it's evaporated all the money we have in transportation and capital projects. The only thing that saved Beech Grove schools is that our patrons in 2009 voted in a referendum otherwise we could not transport students at all," said Beech Grove Superintendent Dr. Paul Kaiser.
Really, Beech Grove is better off than many, in spite of its plight. With the referendum, they've got money to pay for transportation, but a lot of other schools don't have a referendum.
In Wayne Township, the transportation budget that makes sure kids get to school and back home again everyday is being reduced by $12 million next year. Fewer buses will be running the same routes and the start and ending time of the school day for the kids will be changing.
Two short-term solutions are currently circulating at the Statehouse, allowing administrators to use Capital Project and Debt Service monies for transportation.
"Busing is a voluntary activity on the school's part, but they will still have a choice. If they want to do some busing, they can find ways to fund it," said State Sen. Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville).
Some point to schools like Speedway that has never bused its children, but tight density in that district assures that no child would have to walk over a mile to school.
That is not the case in Beech Grove, where Kaiser says if the referendum hadn't passed, "We would not be transporting kids at all."
Private schools across the state do not bus. The belief there is if parents are paying thousands of dollars in additional money to send their kids there, they will get them there.