MUNCIE, Ind. — After a year that saw a transportation referendum defeated and a waiver to end school bus service denied, Muncie Community Schools has taken another approach to deal with its funding shortfall: redesigning and rebidding bus routes to cut costs.
Muncie Community Schools has been faced with what Superintendent Tim Heller called “a very severe shortage of funds to operate yellow school buses” because of heavy losses in property taxes in the district.
In November, the district held a special referendum election in an attempt to generate future transportation funding. The referendum, which would have raised property taxes by 22 cents for every $100 of assessed property value, was defeated.
Muncie Community Schools then petitioned the state for a waiver on the three-year notice that is required to cease school bus service, but that waiver was denied.
However, Heller said recently that the district still recognizes the need to provide transportation for its students.
“The socio-economic demographics of our community make a very compelling case for the need for yellow school bus service,” the superintendent wrote in a recent message to parents. The district “has never questioned the need for this service; adequate funding remains the issue.”
Now, Muncie has redesigned and rebid its school bus routes for the 2014-15 school year and beyond. Heller said that the goal was to create efficiencies in operations and to lower the overall cost of operating school buses.
The district didn’t change its requirements on how far students must live from school to qualify for transportation service. The key changes are that most of the new school bus routes are longer and will carry more students on each bus, and there are fewer buses overall.
The district’s transportation service will continue to be provided by its longtime contractor, M&M Bus Co.
According to The Star Press, five buses and 17 routes have been cut. The transportation changes are expected to save the district $304,236.
“We trimmed anywhere that could be trimmed,” M&M Vice President Kendra Burgess told the newspaper. “There is no wiggle room. Every bus will be full.”
Muncie Community Schools officials have also said that an uptick in teacher retirements may help the district in paying for school bus service.