Talawanda School Board votes to continue one-tier bus system for 2024-2025 school year; presents a 5 year forecast

The Talawanda School District Board of Education made a final decision on the bus system and school start times for the 2024-2025 school year at its May 16 meeting. The board also presented its five-year forecast and discussed a price increase for school breakfast and lunch.

In preparation for the vote on the bus system, the board sent out a survey to the community to get feedback on the issue and to allow families to express their support for one of the bus systems: keeping the current one-tier option , moving to a two-tiered system that would require moving up start times or reverting to an earlier system with later start times for elementary school students and earlier start times for middle and high school students.

The board voted to initiate the one-tier bus system from kindergarten through eighth grade, in addition to special education at Butler Tech. The chosen system will also continue to provide no bus transportation to the high school, in addition to no bus transportation for families living two miles or less from their respective school. The current start and end times for all schools will remain in effect for the 24-25 school year based on the board’s financial decision.

During the meeting with the board, school board president Rebecca Howard expressed concern that the people most affected by one-tier busing were not represented. Howard said she felt like she didn’t receive enough data from the survey to make the decision to change the bus system from what it currently is.

However, Superintendent Ed Theroux said he believed the responses were sufficient for a vote.

“(Via emails) we had over 900 respondents,” Theroux said. “I mean, we can only do what we can do, and I don’t want my personal opinion to dictate my voting behavior. I want to hear the voices of the people. I mean, that’s what representation is all about. And I think people responded.”

Howard said another concern she had was the $1 million they would save if they went from the two-tier system to the one-tier system. However, when the numbers were rerun, there were only $520,000 in savings. The board agreed that half a million is still a large sum of money.

After a vote, the one-tier bus system was approved for another year.

“I want people to understand that none of us make these decisions lightly,” Howard said. “We struggle with these things. We are members of this community. We have family members, friends, neighbors who are affected by it, we live these decisions, we know that and we struggle with these decisions.”

Treasurer Shaunna Tafelski presented the mid-year five-year forecast and explained its purpose is to engage the community and the Board of Education in long-term planning and financial discussions.

“When we look at the forecast, it consists of three years of historical data for both revenues and expenses, plus what we know to be true in the current fiscal year,” Tafelski said, “and then we add simulations to it . and inflation indices for each category to arrive at future projections.”

A financial forecast chart showed that in fiscal year ’21 through projected fiscal year ’28, actual and projected revenues are increasing. However, a spending deficit is expected in ’27 and ’28. Tafelski said in this forecast that revenue will increase 1.6% annually, but costs are currently up 5%.

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According to a corporate revenue chart, 45% of revenue comes from property taxes, 22% comes from income taxes and 26% comes from the state through the Ohio Department of Education’s share per student and in the homestead and rollback fee. These are state property tax rollbacks to school districts.

Medicaid reimbursements, investment income, special education from other school districts, and prior year reimbursements amount to 7% of income.

Tafelski said it is important to remember that 75% of children’s education is supported by the community, and 25% by the state.

As noted by the board, some challenges when it comes to finances that are stagnant in the forecast include HB33, a fair school finance plan where funding is not guaranteed because there are two state budgets to pass. Tafelski said HB 126 continues to severely limit the board’s ability to challenge valuation reductions, impacting property values ​​and taxes. Inflationary increases in services, supplies, and instructional materials needed to deliver education have also been a problem.

During its Thursday night meeting, the board also approved an increase in school breakfast and lunch prices to get ahead of budget shortfalls, which are expected to reach $98,000 within the fund this year.

“We are aware and concerned about the impact of any price increase, especially on middle-income families who do not qualify for free or reduced lunch, but who also do not necessarily have a heavy spending cushion,” Howard said. “So this is a fairly minimal increase… we are not doubling the costs.”

This will be a 25-cent increase for breakfast at elementary through high school, a 25-cent increase for elementary school lunches and a 35-cent increase for lunch at middle school and high school. According to the board, this only applies to students; adults will be analyzed and have a higher increase. Tafelski said the last increase was two years ago.

“I don’t like raising prices for this. I really don’t,” Tafelski said. “But this is a self-sustaining department that has no general financial support at all. So I come with a heavy heart knowing that this will affect some families.”

The next school board meeting will be held at the Talawanda High School auditorium on June 20 at 7 p.m. There is a live stream option available and it can be found here.

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