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Batavia school district busing issue on hold

BATAVIA – The possibility of a proposition to reduce the mileage limits to enable more students to ride the bus to school remains on the table despite the Batavia City School District board of education’s lack of action on the matter Tuesday night.

“I don’t think it’s a dead issue,” said Board President Patrick D. Burk, speaking of cost projections for additional buses at John Kennedy Intermediate School and Batavia High School should mileage requirements be changed to increase the number of eligible bus riders.

The plan presented by Business Administrator Scott C. Rozanski called for decreasing the mileage limit at John Kennedy (grades 2-4) from one mile to a half-mile, adding up to two more buses – at a cost of $45,000 per bus – and changing the guidelines at Batavia High School from outside the city limits to 1½ to 2 miles from the school and adding two to six more buses.

Rozanski said a proposal to alter the transportation mileage limits, including anticipated costs, could be presented to district voters as a separate proposition from the budget.

The board debated the subject for more than an hour, with several members, including Burk, offering a plan to address the situation at John Kennedy only and others supporting a “hybrid” plan of using school buses for the elementary pupils and the public bus service for the high schoolers.

The transportation issue surfaced as a result of parental concerns about the distance that their children had to walk to school, especially during the winter months.

The current district budget calls for a tax levy increase of 1.5 percent – raising the tax rate by 3.05 percent, or about $63 per year to a homeowner with a house assessed at $90,000. Board members stated that their goal is to have no increase in the tax rate.

A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for May 12 with the vote taking place on May 19.

In other developments, the board:

• Voted to establish a new capital reserve fund of $7.5 million over 10 years to fund future capital projects. The public will vote on this and for three board member seats currently held by Phil Ricci, Gretchen DiFante and Leslie Johnson. Candidates have until April 22 to submit application packets.

• Learned that the high school athletic department is planning to start a seven-week basketball league in April and May for intellectually disabled students.

• Received information on next week’s “Positive Picket” days organized by the Batavia Teachers Association. Health teacher Mary Ann Marley said the half-hour sessions – scheduled from March 23-26 at the four district schools – are to support our schools and to “demonstrate our opposition to what Gov. Cuomo is proposing in his budget.”