School board discusses bus times, changes coming to operating funds

Fresh from spending the previous Saturday attending a work session, members of the Huntington County Community School Corporation Board of School Trustees kept their sleeves rolled up for their regular meeting on Monday, Aug. 27, as they tackled a number of issues.

Redistricting and transportation times were a major point of discussion among board members, who expressed concern with the changes in routing and the amount of time students ride the bus getting to and from school.

“We’re still working on that,” said Superintendent Randy Harris. “We’re working on adding a bus to the south end of the school district. We’re still continuing to make tweaks to the bus routes. I think we’re getting closer.”

Harris added that separating secondary students from elementary students has been a good change and resulted in less disciplinary problems on board buses.

Board member Reed Christiansen said he wanted an update on the changes from Transportation Director Vanessa Fields. He said the bus drivers should have been consulted in setting up the routes for the 2018-19 school year.

“Their experience is invaluable,” Christiansen said. “We didn’t get the routes out early enough, we didn’t include the drivers. Now school has started … and we’re too late.”

Board President Matt Roth noted that route times as well as dismissal times have been inconsistent. Board member Brian Warpup wanted to know why the routes hadn’t been overhauled.

“I’m very frustrated about it right now,” Warpup said. “I just think there is a lot of common sense not taken. The shame of it all is that people who are paying are kids sitting on the bus and our parents waiting to get them, because they’re not at school and they’re not at home.”

Fields will be asked to speak to the board at its next meeting. No action was taken on the discussion-only item.
Board members also heard about a major change coming to Hoosier school corporations’ operating funds at the first of the year, mandated by the state, that Assistant Superintendent for Business and Classified Staff Scott Bumgardner called “scary” but at the same time will allow the corporation more flexibility in paying expenses.

“They are wanting to get to a number that is solely for educating students – how much is each corporation spending to educate students in the classroom,” Bumgardner explained. “The positive part and the scary part is, they’ve given us flexibility in operations.”

Currently, the corporation operates from five different funds – the general operating fund, capital projects, transportation, bus replacement and debt service. Bumgardner explained that there are restrictions on what can be purchased out of each fund.

“You can buy a bus out of Bus Replacement but you can’t pay for transportation out of Bus Replacement. Same way with Capital Projects. You do have some flexibility in there, but it’s not like you can pay teachers’ salaries out of your Capital Projects funding,” he said, adding that the state does not allow corporations to cross-mingle payments between the funds. “They see us mowing grass with maybe a $40,000 tractor, and yet, we’re not giving the raises that maybe some people think we should, or we’re not taking care of teachers, yet we’re putting a new roof on that is a million dollars.”

All of the current funds are comprised of local property tax money, with the exception of the General Fund, which is funded based on student enrollment. After Jan. 1, instead of five funds there will only be three – an Education Fund and Operation Fund, and the Debt Service fund would remain in place.

The Education Fund will pay for classroom personnel salaries, Bumgardner explained, plus academic achievement and student support expenditures from Office of Management & Budget “Dollars to the Classroom” categories defined as Direct Classroom Expenditures.

The Operation Fund will pay expenses relating to all previous uses of Capital Projects, Transportation and Bus Replacement Funds, plus “overhead” and “non-operational” expenditures from the former General Fund, including salaries and benefits for offices of superintendent, business manager and human resources, custodian and maintenance salaries and benefits as well as insurance and utilities.

“The good news is, the basic grant didn’t change; we’re going to get funded at the same rate in our Education Fund,” he added.

However, Bumgardner said the board would need to approve a transfer of cash from the Education Fund to the Operation Fund to cover expenditures that previously were paid by local property tax money, amounting to about 16.7 percent that was previously in the General Fund. That transfer would likely be made on a quarterly basis.

No action was taken by the board following the presentation.

The board took action on the following items:

• The board unanimously approved the formation of its “rainy day” fund, which is already in existence but mandated by the Department of Local Government Finance.

• The board unanimously approved retaining iba Design and Marketing, located in Roanoke, to provide branding and marketing services at a fee of $2,530 per month.

• The purchase of five 72-passenger buses and one white bus was unanimously approved. The purchase replaces three buses, which will be traded in.

• An agreement with Parkview Ortho Performance Center for athletic trainers for sports injury and injury management for students was unanimously approved.

• The board agreed 7-0 to use Go Solutions Group Inc. to help collect Medicaid dollars to assist students on free and reduced lunches.

• Board members were divided on approving Harris’ one-year contract extension, voting 4-3 to approve it. Board members Tim Allen, Reed Christiansen and Kevin Yarger voted nay.
The next school board meeting will be a changed date of Wednesday, Sept. 12, at 7 p.m. at Salamonie Elementary School.