EACS transportation talks tabled for now

NEW HAVEN, Ind. (WANE) – Like many districts across the state, East Allen County Schools is facing transportation troubles. State property tax caps have forced the district to slash its transportation budget.

Right now, EACS provides transportation to non-public school students. That includes the Amish. Under the cuts, EACS is still willing to transport those students, but they would have to get themselves to public routes. That has some taxpayers very concerned. 

Despite a packed house, the school board decided to table Tuesday night’s vote on transportation cuts. In addition to the change with nonpublic school students, the cuts would also impact the following:

  • Stop transportation for students attending Allen County Learning Academy (ACLA)
  • Stop transportation for School Choice/ EACS choice school transfers
  • Change pay of sub bus drivers from daily rate of $60 to hourly rate of $15

“For the board to have more time to collect some additional information and for our community partners to come to us,” EACS Board President Chris Baker said.

EACS estimates it’s taking a $300,000 hit to its transportation budget thanks to property tax caps.

“We are slowly widdling away our deficit by making some internal cuts,” Baker said.

EACS launched an extensive study last September to look at how many nonpublic school students lived on non-public routes. The study shows that impacts around 150 students. Of those, more than 95 percent are Amish.

“We’re not refusing. We’re just staying the state statute says that we have to provide transportation for nonpublic school students as long as they are on an already scheduled EACS bus route,” Baker said.

Michael Coomer lives in the district and is concerned about how decision would impact the Amish.

“If you take a small minority and say, just point blank, your vote doesn’t matter, we still want your money, but your kids don’t matter- that’s bad. I don’t care what color, creed, or religion you are, that’s wrong,” Coomer said.

He’s worried students who live on country roads without sidewalks would have to walk in the street to get to and from their bus stop. Coomer said putting students safety in danger isn’t worth any amount of money.

“You’re trying to save $30,000 on a $60 or $80 million budget. I mean who in their right mind would risk that,” Coomer said.

The board argues the cuts are not an attack on nonpublic students. It’s something the board said impacts every student in the district.

“We feel everybody has to share the burden here, and right now, the EACS students are taking the most of the cuts,” Baker said.

The board plans to take up the transportation issue again at its next meeting on March 17th.

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