News and Tribune

July 16, 2013

New Albany-Floyd County schools mull transportation funding changes

By JEROD CLAPP
jerod.clapp@newsandtribune.com

NEW ALBANY —

Proposed changes to transportation policies could allow the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp. to stop paying for athletic team trips to away games as early as next year.

The board had its first reading of the changes at its Monday meeting and could vote on the measure by their next meeting on Aug. 12. 

Bill Briscoe, assistant superintendent, said removing a couple of paragraphs from the beginning of policy 8640 — which regulates field trips and other district-sponsored trips — could cut those funds in the future.

“We have no intent to change anything we’re doing this year. We’re just trying be proactive and put something down that will give us more flexibility in the future,” Briscoe said.

Fred McWhorter, chief business officer, said the language of the current policy doesn’t allow for outside groups or agencies to pay for some of those trips, but mandates the district to fund them. He said that’s gotten expensive.

“The last couple of years, we’ve spent $125,000 on athletic travel,” McWhorter said. “Now at some point in the future, maybe there’s a shared cost ... but this is flexibility for the future.”

Briscoe said the change won’t affect students this year. But Brad Snyder, deputy superintendent, said other districts across the state have already had to make drastic moves to rein in those kinds of costs.

He said state property tax caps are to blame for those kinds of changes in school districts.

“Again, all of this is an outgrowth of circuit breakers, which everybody gets tired of hearing about,” Snyder said. “And out here in Floyd county, we’re lightly or modestly affected by circuit breakers. Today, we are.”

Briscoe said as funding continues to prove problematic for the district, the option to have another line to cut out of budgets could help balance the books in the future.

“I’m just saying down the road, if we did hit severe trouble, sometimes our expenses are running more than what we’re bringing in from the state,” Briscoe said. “There are times where we may have to at least debate that or have conversations. I’m not saying we would.”

The district already has a moratorium on field trips.

 

LOTS OF LOTS

The board voted in favor of purchasing one property in New Albany and exploring the option of purchasing another in the county.

With a 3-2 vote, the board approved the purchase of 1827 Shelby Street for $30,000. Snyder has brought two other properties on the same street — 1813 and 1815 — to the board earlier this year to help expand parking or greenspace for New Albany High School.

Rebecca Gardenour, board member, said with this property so far away from the others owned by the district, she’s not sure why the district was interested in it.

“I would rather start where we are at the end and buy them up,” Gardenour said. “I know we have to take them when we can. It’s not that we haven’t had direction, but it’s just been confusing. Do we buy up the whole block when we can, or do we just buy up to a certain area?”

Mark Boone, board member, said he’d also like to keep the properties closer together when purchasing them, but also understands it’s not possible if they’re not up for sale.

“They’re not available right now and people think they’re worth a lot more than what we’ve giving for them,” Boone said. “At this property now, we’re starting to set the market price for that block, so if we do start acquiring properties, nobody’s coming to us asking for $75,000 anymore because we’re not paying that much.”

Gardenour said that may be the case, but that might upset homeowners in that area.

“Well, I’m sure the neighbors probably aren’t real happy about that, either,” Gardenour said.

The board voted to purchase the property with Gardenour and Jessica Knable, board member, opposing the vote.

Snyder also brought forward 3590 Edwardsville Galena Road as a property to consider purchasing.

The lot, which is across from Highland Hills Middle School, was sought when the district built the school, but it wasn’t available. 

Snyder said the lot is empty now except for possibly a toolshed, and the owner contacted him last week about its purchase. The board approved exploring the option unanimously.