Photo courtesy of Hoover City Schools
A recent study projects that ceasing school buses in Hoover could negatively impact many facets of the city’s economy.
According to the study, performed by the St. Louis-based research group Zanola Company, LLC, the decision by the Hoover City Schools Board of Education’s to terminate bus service is projected to cast a long shadow over the economy by the year 2020.
The report projects that average home price, number of home sales, new home closings, projected employment and retail sales will all decline from projections for 2013.
However, were school bus services to continue, all five of these factors would increase steadily over the coming years.
“Our anticipated outcome over an extended time frame is that reduced school transportation will continue a trend away from the presently projected positive home trends,” the study reads. “It is also our opinion that the same type and levels of housing outcomes will extend to population migration, employment, desirability factors, and retail sales.”
Hoover City Councilman Gene Smith, who commissioned the study in July and paid for the report with personal funds, released the study last month. Smith said the report, which is more than 60 pages, was paid for with his own money because he didn’t feel other members of the Council would feel it was worth using tax dollars to produce.
“I myself am not even sure it is,” he said.
News of the study’s existence came during a meeting saturated with commentary on the school system’s decision to end bus service. For opponents, Nov. 4 was the final night to appeal to the Hoover City Council to intercede as the fiscal year 2014 budget was on the agenda. Within that budget is the City’s $2 million contribution to the Board of Education, which members of the organization Save the Hoover Buses encouraged the Council to increase.
Despite earnest pleas, the proposed budget passed unanimously.
“Every one of you is out of touch,” Hoover resident Robin Schultz told the Council. “You’ve never been in the shoes of the people this affects.”
Members of the organization revisited their concerns about the Board’s decision — including a potential increase in traffic, cost required to cope and parents with students at multiple schools. But they also focused accusations of irresponsibility toward Council members, as the Council appoints Board members.
“You appointed the Board of Education,” Dan Fulton said. “So when it’s time for elections, you’re the ones who will be held accountable.”
But the Council, particularly Smith, who’s head of the City’s Finance Committee, was armed and ready. Smith told residents that following multiple conversations with members of the Board, he didn’t believe increasing the funding would make a difference.
“If we give them any more money, they’re just going to use it to pay down their debt,” Smith said he was told.
Smith said the Board ended its FY 2013 projecting a $13 million deficit and has budgeted a $17 million deficit in FY 2014. But he said he believes these numbers could read closer to $15 million and $20 million following final calculations.
He also said he’s been encouraged by residents to discontinue the City’s $2 million contribution until a complete plan to reduce the deficit has been presented by the Board or Superintendent Andy Craig.
“Andy [Craig] said he needed three years to get the budget balanced,” Smith said. “If he makes it to four, I think the state will take over the system.”
In a statement released last month, Craig said he and the school board have been in discussions with State Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice and other representatives of the State Department of Education, as well as the United States Attorney’s Office and representatives for the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, regarding the decision.
“As a part of these continuing discussions, we have engaged in a collaborative review process with the Department of Justice, with the mutual goal of best serving the students of Hoover,” Craig’s statement reads.