UTICA — Residents of the North Fork School district spoke Monday night and the board of education listened. After lengthy discussion regarding the suspension of high school busing, and a 90-minute executive session, the board decided to continue funding transportation.
Last month, the board decided to eliminate high school busing. Since the state has reduced transportation funding, the board made the decision in order to save on driver salaries, fuel costs and bus maintenance. One question was how, if the parents have to be at work early in the morning, the high school students were supposed to get to school. Another concern was the length of the bus ride for elementary and junior high students if the district went to single routing and the dangers of pupils walking half a mile in the dark to a bus stop. People also spoke on behalf of the bus drivers whose hours would be drastically reduced and health insurance coverage in jeopardy. Several of the speakers emphasized the importance of making sure the students get to school; one asked about the feasibility of a pay-to-ride option; and a trio offered to work on fundraising to cover busing costs.
The board responded to the people’s questions during the 80-minute public participation portion of the meeting and explained why the cost savings measures are needed and stressed how vital it is that the community vote for the renewal of the one percent earned income tax levy, which will be on the November ballot.
“We’ve made $4 million in cuts over the last four years,” said board president Bernie Snow. “If the levy fails in November, we’ll have to make $1.2 million more in cuts.”
One man who addressed the gathering said it is important to keep the needs of the students in the forefront of any discussion, and said it would be more productive, rather than blaming the school board, to hold the legislature accountable for not adequatley funding schools.
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