By Karen Hall
Marshall County, along with school districts nationwide, has been hit with an "unfunded mandate" from the federal government.
At a meeting of the school board's transportation committee, transportation supervisor Michael Frey explained that the Federal Communications Commission has ordered all school bus radio frequencies to be changed.
A few of the buses have Kenwood radios, and these can have their frequency changed by a technician. Frey has a man lined up in Shelbyville to do this for $10 per radio.
The other radios, however, are all Johnsons, and will have to be replaced, at a cost of $350 each.
Frey said he estimated the total cost of getting all bus radios into compliance would be $15,000, but that "might be a bit high." He said the work would be done this summer. The money can come out of the capital outlay part of the budget.
Frey continued to talk about costs, stating, "Fuel is the highest it's been in the three years I've been here." He reported that the diesel tanks at Cornersville and Chapel Hill had been filled the previous day, and the Lewisburg tank would be topped up Wednesday.
"That should get us to the end of the year," Frey said.
"I suggest you keep them topped off," said committee chairman Curt Denton.
After the school year ends, the school buses transport children for the Bridges program.
"When the Bridges money comes in, does in go back into the diesel part of the budget?" asked Barbara Kennedy.
"I think it's going into 'miscellaneous refunds,'" said budget committee chairman Donnie Moses. "We've got to get it back."
"It's only 40 cents a mile," exclaimed Frey. "It barely scratches the surface."
Nevertheless, committee members agreed there needed to be tighter control of miscellaneous refunds so they were credited back to the areas where the money had been spent in the first place.
Moving on to another spending question, Kennedy asked Frey, "How many new buses will you need next year?"
"I've asked for two special ed buses," Frey answered. "Special ed is growing, growing, growing. I'll probably ask for two more regular buses."
"Money for that's already allocated by the county, isn't it?" Kennedy asked, turning to the new director of schools; "Jackie, will you ask Freda?"
Freda Terry is the county budget director.
Kennedy also asked Frey to try and figure out what having a Comprehensive Development Classroom in Chapel Hill would do for bus mileage.
"Apparently there's a growing need for it," she said, referring to two families who addressed the board in recent months, begging for a CDC classroom at Forrest.
Moving on to bus scheduling, Randy Perryman said, "We need to address the start time. Schools should start at the same time. Then we could use the Distance Learning. It's the one thing that's holding Distance Learning back."
"We're working to get that taken care of," promised new director of schools Jackie Abernathy.
After the meeting Abernathy showed committee members the changes she has started making in the director's office.