DUNLAP — Like Elkhart and Goshen, Concord Community Schools is having to search for where to cut back transportation expenses to make up for a shortfall due to property tax caps.
The school district has almost $500,000 less to work with this year than it did in its $2.07 million transportation budget in 2012, according to Assistant Superintendent Tim Tahara.
In response, a committee of principals, administrators, teachers, a music director and athletic director have been meeting monthly to decide how to change transportation plans to meet that shortfall.
Administrators went over the committee’s recommendations with the Concord School Board at its meeting last Monday, May 20, and the board will consider a vote on the changes at its June 3 meeting.
Concord families may actually see a larger impact from some other decisions, including not offering some summer school courses or field trips, than from the proposed changes to actual transportation to and from school.
Concord will not be offerings its Camp Concord summer program, which had been for students who just completed kindergarten through fifth grade, or its junior high Jump Start program in an effort to save on the costs of getting students to and from schools in the summer, Concord Superintendent Wayne Stubbs explained. Intervention for students who did not pass on the first round of Indiana Reading Evaluation and Determination (IREAD-3) testing is being offered now after school, instead of through a summer school program.
High school summer courses, to which students usually drive themselves, and beginning band and orchestra programs will still continue.
Field trips will also be cut to a minimum next school year, Stubbs said.
Stubbs said that he and other administrators are also talking with leaders from athletic, music and other extra-curricular departments about how those groups could help take on some of the funding for their transportation.
“Field trips are wonderful experiences for kids,” Stubbs said. He had visited Ox Bow Elementary’s kindergarten last week as they were excitedly preparing to go on a trip to a zoo. “It broke my heart to think that next year’s kindergartners won’t get to do this.”
The field trips likely to continue would be the “internal ones, like busing elementary students to Concord High School for swim classes.
Concord should save about $150,000 from not having summer school courses, Stubbs said, while cutting field trips should save about $125,000.
Stubbs said the changes are ones “that we’re not excited about, not things we would typically like to do, but unfortunately we’re having to do them.” He and other administrators will assess next year whether resuming summer school and field trips will be possible.
Stubbs also said that Concord will only hire one replacement for six teachers who are retiring at the end of this school year, saving money in the school system’s general fund, which covers teachers and staff pay and benefits, to help offset the shortfall in the transportation fund.
“We don’t have a lot we could change at Concord,” Stubbs said.
Concord doesn’t have walk zones because there are few sidewalks built in the district. The district is also divided by a major roadway, U.S. 33, and by heavily used railroad tracks. At the same time, Concord’s enrollment continues to grow.
Tahara explained that daily transportation to and from Concord’s schools could also have some changes.
If approved by the board, the Concord Intermediate School and Concord’s elementary schools would have slightly different start and end times compared with this year, allowing buses to pick up both intermediate and elementary school students on the same buses, then dropping them off at their appropriate building. Students in subdivisions will also meet in groups, allowing buses to make fewer stops.
Stubbs said that students shouldn’t notice so much of a difference in their daily schedules, but if tax cap losses continue to be as significant or worse than they have been, which is projected at this point, Concord would need to consider more drastic measures.