0813 school bus cuts public hearing
Diega MacDougall, 13, a seventh grader at Simmons Middle School, holds a sign at public forum held to discuss the decision of Hoover City School officials to cut bus service. Photo by Marienne Thomas Ogle.
Hoover City Schools Superintendent Andy Craig told about 500 participants at a public forum on Aug. 8 that, as of now, the termination of general student bus service for the 2014-2015 school year stands.
The standing-room-only crowd at the Spain Park High School Theatre had gathered at the invitation of the Hoover City Schools Board of Education to become “well informed of the facts and have an opportunity to provide feedback" after a great deal of public opposition arose following the board’s July 4-1 vote to cut the service in order to cut costs.
Asked if the board’s vote was “a done deal,” Craig replied, “at this point, this has been presented to the board, it is board-approved and it is the plan going forward.”
However, Craig also addressed three alternatives to the cut the board had investigated:
• Parents paying for students to ride — Craig said it could not be considered as the state would not allow it legally.
• Grandfathering in current residents for continued transportation while excluding those who establish residency after a certain date — According to Craig, this move would not save the monies needed.
• Establishing a third party provider for transportation with parent groups at schools — Craig said this was definitely a possibility.
According to school officials, the system has seen a decline in revenues, including local, state and federal funds, coupled with an increase in student enrollment.
Since 2008, system revenues on a per-student basis have decreased from $13,715 to $11,356 for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2012, said school officials. The decline represents a cumulative operating revenue loss for the same four-year period of $96.8 million; with revenues for fiscal year 2012 down $31.6 million compared to the fiscal year 2008 level.
During the first part of the meeting, those in attendance, some of whom carried signs protesting the cut, listened to a PowerPoint presentation by Chief Financial Officer Cathy Antee giving an overview of the school system’s finances since 2008, including its loss of revenue and cuts made by the board in areas such as staffing, administration, operations and debt service.
The public then had the opportunity to make suggestions and ask questions via microphone, and those included concerns such as student safety, increased traffic, and the Hoover City Council again returning funding it had cut several years ago in light of the city’s improved economic situation.
The Board of Education's next regular meeting is Monday, Aug. 12 at 5:30 p.m. at the Farr Administration Building on Municipal Drive in Hoover.