More than $1.3 million is missing in Brunswick County Schools' budget for next year; the deficit follows an unexpected decision by school board members to return to a traditional schedule.
The logistics and cost needed to switch back to the single bell schedule were presented to school board members at the budget work session on Tuesday.
The estimated total cost is $1,753,509. The expenses include money for more buses, maintenance and the potential costs of cutting 60 full time bus drivers.
The county will now only need seven full-time drivers and 167 part-time drivers. According to meeting notes, the average entry-level part-time driver makes $48 per day. Transportation Director Bobby Taylor said it will be a huge challenge to fill those positions.
"My goal is to sit down with the HR Director, and he's going to instruct me on how we can save the jobs of all of those full-time drivers," Taylor said. "That's my number one priority. Save their jobs, save their hours and their wages and give them the justice that they truly do deserve."
Taylor said students could see longer ride times. The average ride time is now 40 minutes, but with the new schedule, the county will have to reduce the amount of routes from 184 to 174.
The county has to buy 12 new buses to return to the same start schedule. Taylor suggested an additional 10 more buses be added to maintain the current ride time and number of routes. The extra 10 buses would cost an additional $900,000 to the costs associated with returning to a single bell schedule.
It was said that if those extra buses are not purchased, less children will take the bus because of the increased ride time which would lead to more students driving their kids to school which then leads to an increase in traffic congestion.
With the schedule change and all the costs and logistics associated with it, the county will lose some of its state funding due to inefficiency.
School Board Vice-Chairperson Shirley Babson opposed returning to the traditional schedule and said she is losing sleep over the decision.
"Everything's been said and done today to show it's going to cost a lot of money and there's a lot of repercussion for that," Babson said. "When you're on a board, you do what the majority of the board says to do."
Babson said parents are split on which schedule is the best option.
"I talked to one the other day and she heard it was going to cost that much money, and they understood that, then she could understand why maybe we shouldn't be on that schedule."
There were a lot of high priority unfunded items presented in the budget, including the request of 19 teachers to decrease class size.
The school board approved to operate under an interim budget resolution until the state legislature adopts an annual budget. This means the board will continue to operate at current year levels for all funds, except capital outlay until a budget resolution is adopted.
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