Cutting bus routes: “It has been a wonderful thing”

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – FWCS is feeling the pinch of property tax caps. With a $9M shortfall in the district’s transportation budget alone, leaders have already eliminated some routes. But, they still need to trim more.

As a whole, the district has lost close to $30M in funding because of property tax caps. $9M of it was for bus service. Unfortunately FWCS officials say they can’t move state money from one budget to another. On top of that, they say there’s not enough they could move around to cover the shortfall.

“This is such a big problem that there really isn’t another place to go to solve the problem. Other than to reduce the service that we are providing,” FWCS Chief Financial Officer Kathy Friend said.

Starting next school year, elementary school students living within a mile of their school won’t get bus service. Same thing for middle schoolers living within a mile and a half, and high schoolers in a two-mile radius of their school. That alone will cut $1.5M of the $2.5M they have to trim.

“It will make a significant dent, but we still have to do some other things in order to reach the goal of reducing the budget by $2.5M. So, that’s why we are exploring some other options.”

That may mean adjusting school hours or even outsourcing bus service. Something the CEO at Community Action of Northeast Indiana Steve Hoffman says they did. 10 years ago CANI cut bus routes entirely for their Head Start program.

“It has been a wonderful, wonderful thing. We should had done it a long time before,” CANI CEO Steve Hoffman said.

Attendance is still high and they say it has boosted the moral of students and parents.

“A lot of our kids we never saw their parents. They would just put the kids on the bus, kids would come to school, and then they would go back on the bus. Now we are seeing parents as they drop kids off. Parents are staying and are really helping out and engaging in the classrooms.”

School officials say they’ll send a letter home next week to parents with information on how this will impact their children.

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