Decatur Township schools may end bus service

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) -One of the major school districts in Marion County is considering putting an end to school bus service.

The Decatur Township School Board approved this at its meeting Tuesday night.

The district said it comes down to its finances. This year alone the district says it will lose $7.5 million to property tax caps.

Moving forward, the district approved a referendum question on the May 6 ballot asking voters to approve an additional local property tax generating $3.85 million in annual revenue.

Starting in 2015, the average Decatur Township homeowner would pay less than $7 a month.

The superintendent said, if that passes, the district won’t end bus service.

If it doesn’t pass, bus service could end in 2017; state law requires 3 years notice.

Parents like Denise Miller are concerned. Her daughter rides the bus home everyday.

“She would probably have to find rides because I can’t get off work. I’m a single mom,” Miller said.

Franklin Township ran into similar financial problems in 2011, so it leased its busing and transportation facilities to another company that began charging parents for their children to ride the bus.

But the arrangement only last a year.

“”It was a tough year on our community. You know, with traffic jams, just people weren’t happy about it. I understand. It’s just not a good decision,” said Chad Blacklock, chief financial officer for Franklin Township Schools.

Blacklock said the district held referendums twice but voters turned them down both times.

On Wednesday, he said the district has adjusted by consolidating bus routes and cutting some “related arts” classes like P.E. Library.

But Blacklock said balancing the books is becoming increasingly challenging because of property tax caps.

“We lost 40-percent of our (tax) revenue this year,” he said. “Look at a business. If you were to look at a business owner and say, ‘you lost 40-percent of your revenue in a year,’ how do you keep your doors open? And That’s what school districts are facing with these property tax caps.”

According to the Indiana Department of Education, Muncie Community Schools and Westfield-Washington Schools have also said they may end bus service for most students by 2017 because the districts cannot afford to keep the buses running.

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