Schools work to move forward despite transportation cuts

By Carly O'Keefe - bio | email

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, IL (KFVS) - School starts in just a couple of weeks in Illinois. As administrators round up kids for registration, they're also juggling another round of cuts from the state.

School administrators say they're left to find a way to keep their districts moving forward with a newly announced 42 percent cut in their transportation budgets.

"It's pretty much cut in half," said Derek Hutchins, superintendent of Crab Orchard Schools.

The Crab Orchard School District owns and operates its own fleet of buses that carry 300 or more students to and from school each and every day.

"When we did have money, we updated our fleet," Hutchins said. "All the buses the kids ride on have air conditioning, the oldest bus we have is a 2007."

That's a good thing, because now that the state has cut back on transportation funding, Crab Orchard won't be able to afford a new bus for a while. Hutchins hopes that sacrifice will be enough to absorb that sizeable hit to the budget.

"We still have to open our doors, we still have to pay our staff, we still have to run our buses, still have to feed our kids," Hutchins said. "And we're gonna do it one way or another."

Meantime, Johnston City, like most other school districts nowadays, pays a private company to run its bus routes.

"They give us a monthly rate per bus per route and we pay that flat fee," said Johnston City superintendent of schools Gary Schurz. "For extracurricular trips we take they charge a fee based on mileage."

Budget cuts will make paying those fees more difficult. Still, Schurz says Johnston City has to get its students to school, although they may see the evidence of those cuts once they get there.

"What's gonna happen is the regular state aid we get will have to be funneled into the transportation fund," Schurz said. "That state aid would normally be used for teachers, books and supplies."

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