By JEROD CLAPP
NEW ALBANY —
To avoid going negative in its transportation fund, the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp. on Monday approved $400,000 from its rainy day fund for diesel fuel purchases.
But Fred McWhorter, chief business officer of the district, said it’s unclear how long that measure will help because of proposed changes to protected taxes.
“It really hinges on what happens with the protected taxes issue,” McWhorter said. “If it gets delayed or goes back to the way it was, then yes, I think we can get three, four, maybe five years before we have to do such a large infusion again.”
With property tax caps written into the state constitution in 2010, the capital projects funds of school districts bear the brunt of revenue losses. A proposal at the state level to keep debt service — a line item within the capital projects fund — from losing money because of the caps means the money lost there would be spread to the remainder of the budget.
Included in that is a district’s bus replacement and transportation funds.
The last time the board made a similar cash infusion was in 2009 for $500,000. McWhorter said if the legislature makes the change to protect debt service funds from negative impacts of property tax caps, the $400,000 may only last two or three years.
In the meantime, he said the district has worked on finding efficiencies in transportation, such as purchasing fuel in bulk. McWhorter said from 2012 to 2013, the transportation deficiency decreased by about $75,000.
He said however long the $400,000 infusion lasts, it gives the district more of a chance to continue to find savings in its transportation expenses.
“If we want to keep things going the way they have been the last few years, it’s time for another cash infusion,” McWhorter said. “That will get us through another couple of years, hopefully, as we continue to work on our efficiencies.”
He also said though other districts in the state have begun charging athletic teams and other extracurricular groups for use of school buses, New Albany-Floyd County hasn’t and doesn’t have plans to start.
However, Rebecca Gardenour, board member, said if such a measure is considered, she wants a heads up before preliminary action comes to the table.
“All I ask is that if that’s something that might happen in the future, that the board discusses it first before a policy comes to us for a first reading,” Gardenour said. “That’s all I’m asking.”
McWhorter said that would be the case, but it would also make for good discussion at a board planning session.
The board passed the cash infusion unanimously.
An extra stipend, in return for more readily available services, was also passed for the cell phone plans of certain administrators.
Bill Briscoe, assistant superintendent, brought a proposal to change the district’s policy on communication allowances for certain staff to go from about $20 a month to $60.
He said with the immediacy of communication becoming more vital for certain administrative staff, giving those employees more money would help ensure their availability on off hours.
At the first reading of the policy on Nov. 11, Gardenour said she didn’t understand why some administrators would get extra money for their cell phone usage, especially since some of them were recently granted raises.
Briscoe said for example, on the district’s first snow day of the year on Dec. 6, he was on a vacation day. He received 51 phone calls.
“Now that’s an unusual situation, but that’s the nature of our jobs and how we are responding now even though we’re technically off,” Briscoe said. “I think our employees, if it doesn’t get raised, will survive and move on. But do I think it should be raised? Yes.”
The board passed the measure 4-2, with Gardenour and Jessica Knable, board member, opposing. Roger Whaley, board vice president, abstained. His wife, Janie Whaley, is the principal of Floyd Central High School.