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Board of Education Discusses Busing, Projects and Strategic Planning

Busing program exceeds enrollment expectations; district getting ready for school to start.

updated: 7:22 p.m. with more specific numbers

At a 20-minute Millburn Board of Education Meeting Tuesday, board members learned that 1,918 students have signed up for  and that the administration is working on bus routes. Of those numbers, 1,174 will pay the subsciption fee and 744 will have their fees waived. 

The issue has been a and opponents predicted that the district would get too few riders to justify the expense, and board members have expressed relief that the number of has .

Bus passes were mail last week and the district is still taking applications.

The board also approved the transportation contracts for the school year with its bus companies - $1,096,523 to Barker Bus Company and $29,321 to First Student.

Not all of that expense is for students bused within the Millburn and Short Hills -- it also covers students bused to private schools.

are $580 per child with a cap of $1,160 per family.

The board also discussed student enrollment. The district won't have preliminary figures until the first week of school, and final figures used for budgeting, won’t be determined until October 15. Meanwhile, in some grades in some schools the numbers were up. The district had to hire a new 2nd Grade teacher at Glenwood Elementary, where there are 96 students in the grade, in order to provide an additional class to meet the need.

In the remaining couple of weeks of summer, the School District is making its final preparations for another year of school, with hiring and training new 20 new teachers, implementing the new state, registering students and finishing construction projects around the district.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. James Crisfield said the Hartshorn School is  undergoing a slab stabilization project, which will be completed by Sept. 1. Other projects include repairs to the High School parking lot so that it can’t be mistaken for an ice rink in the winter, and the $60,000 sale (and removal) of the at the Middle School.

"Yay," exclaimed Board Member Regina Truitt, referring to the removal of the trailers.

Board Member Jean Pasternak invited other members of the board to meet with board members of the Palo Alto School District to discuss that district's stategic plan.

Pasternak has been talking with Palo Alto board members because the District is similar to Millburn-Short Hills and has "an excellent strategic plan."

"They are happy to talk with us," she said. "I think it would help to go through the process and what they went through."

Carolyn Most August 24, 2011 at 12:22 PM
I am trying to understand how the numbers of busing service subscribers have exceeded exceptions. The BOE's stated intention and budget plan called for the elimination of Courtesy busing and the implementation of Subscription busing to reduce the budget by $750,000 in 2011/2012. Cutting Courtesy busing was supposed to have accounted for $375,000 of this reduction. The addition of Subsection busing was supposed to account for another $375,000 in budget reductions. IF we have 900 kids signed up - 850 paid with 50 hardship exemptions - that is a total maximum of $493, 000. So how do we get an additional $375,000 in savings from the program - especially as the BOE approved the purchase an additional bust last month required by the new Subscription service? I am surprised with the total number of subscribers but we still do not have details about how many of these were conversations from Courtesy busing and how many are new to busing. These numbers would be very informative as it would tell us what the results might have been if we simply added Subscription busing without eliminating Courtesy busing. I think it would make sense to have all the numbers worked out before we decide whether this program is a success.- especially because as I mentioned, the only stated intent of this policy was to reduce our annual budget by $750,000.
TaxManWantsMoreMoney August 24, 2011 at 12:56 PM
Carolyn: Your point on transparency is spot on. The BOE should provide a full accounting on 2010 busing costs versus 2011. - Of course, the numbers would be clearer if the costs for busing students with IEPs or other private schools is discounted from the 2010 and 2011 figures. - As to the cost of the recently purchased bus, that cost should be amortized over the useful life of the bus (along with additional maintenance if it were an addition to the fleet rather than a replacement -- not certain which) Look, subscription busing was always a backdoor tax increase. Now that this is in place, look for more fee-for-service items in the BOE and munipal budgets!
Acton August 24, 2011 at 01:05 PM
No offense, but the cap seems dumb. You don't get a volume discount for multiple seats on NJ Transit, Amtrak or Greyhound. Why is the town subsidizing families with more than two busing subscriptions?
MarkDS August 24, 2011 at 01:46 PM
I do not think we own buses. We contract for them.
Laura Griffin August 24, 2011 at 05:02 PM
Please note correction to the number: the number of subscriptions is more than 1,900 not more than 900. (It is 1,918 to be exact.)
Carolyn Most August 24, 2011 at 08:34 PM
Thanks for the correction Laura. So now we have over a million in revenue from Subscription busing That may make the difference in meeting the budget goals. Even so, the community should see all the numbers including initial budgets and estimates and actual costs. BTW; According to the Finance Committee July 25 meetings notes, a recommendation was made to purchase a bus for $81K .
J Doe August 25, 2011 at 12:06 PM
Carolyn, can you explain your math? If 1,174 will pay the subsciption fee and 744 will have their fees waived, then how do we get to over a million in revenue? 1,174 x $580 = $680,920.
Acton August 25, 2011 at 01:32 PM
744 waivers seems awfully high to me. What are the standards for waiver?
G. Anderson August 25, 2011 at 01:49 PM
I'm inclined to think that the 744 waivers refers to families living in both mandatory busing zone as well as hardship.
KLF August 25, 2011 at 01:53 PM
Does the 744 number include students who are still eligible for free busing based on the state guidelines for distance? If so, I wouldn't call those waivers. Waivers are those who are NOT eligible for busing based on distance, but who qualify for free busing based on the income guidelines that the district has set.
Dr. James Crisfield August 25, 2011 at 02:18 PM
Let me jump in here to clarify these numbers. I am sorry for the confusion, but they're changing (if slightly now) on a daily basis and that's perhaps causing terms and categories to get jumbled. As of 8/24/11, we have a GRAND TOTAL of 1,885 students on a bus. In that total are 1,024 paid subscription students. That results in $594K of revenue (@ $580 each). Also in that total are 77 students who will be on a bus, with the fee waived, because they are the third (or higher) sibling. Also in that total are 88 students who qualify for the income fee waiver. And, finally, also in that total are 696 students who qualify for busing due to how far they live from school (state law). Hope that clarifies rather than confuses!
Carolyn Most August 25, 2011 at 07:09 PM
Thank you for the clarification Dr. Crisfield. Do you yet have an analysis of how many of the 1024 paid subscriptions, 77 multi sibling waivers, and the 88 hardship waivers were formerly covered by the Courtesy busing program and how many are new to Subscription busing?
Dr. James Crisfield August 25, 2011 at 07:37 PM
We are putting together a report that will be presented at the 9/12/11 BOE meeting. We'll cover as many areas and ways to look at the data as we can, given the time constraints this time of year typically entails.
Cham September 06, 2011 at 05:50 PM
Acton, I wouldn't compare school busing to "NJ Transit". Education and access to it is a right and public education in the U.S. is supposed to be free.

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