During a work session this week, Sampson County Board of Education members questioned why the county system shoulders the majority of an $3 million-plus expense for busing students each year.
Kevin Harrison, a computer consultant for the Department of Public Instruction-Transportation, presented allotment information with the Sampson County Board of Education during a Tuesday work session.
The county shares a busing system with Clinton City Schools, which brought about questions regarding funding. According to reports, the final state amounts for the county school system is $2.85 million while the city’s is only roughly $331,000, which is only for the salaries of bus drivers.
Some board members, including Glenn Tart and Telfair Simpson, questioned why the county had to pay for the majority of the expenses. According to state laws, the county’s board is in charge of operating buses and providing storage and maintenance.
“Essentially, it says the county has to create a bus garage that can cover all of the LEAs in the county,” Harrison said. “The purpose of that is probably efficiency.”
“What complicates the situation is when you have two systems, perhaps,” said Board member Mary Brown, while asking questions.
During the presentation, Harrison mentioned suggested provisions from lawmakers which included the merger of school systems from adjacent counties.
“Who knows where any of that stuff will go,” Harrison said regarding the mergers.
The school bus garage on Indian Town Road has 14 full-time employees. Some of the listed positions include route and shop mechanics, a fuel truck driver and a transportation supervisor.
Local Transportation Director Herb Sanderson also brought up conflicting snow days, where the city’s and the county’s calendars don’t line up. He mentioned how it can cost the county additional money.
“It’s an extra expense for the county, but it’s also an extra expense for the city when it comes to paying drivers as well,” Harrison said.
Harrison said if the city was to take on more expenses, the county would receive less money from the state, due to funding regulations procedures. The funding formula is based on previous years expenditures and includes a budget rating based on transportation figures such as the amount of buses and students. Harrison said the local busing system was efficient when it came to spending and its procedures.
“City and county relationships are complicated,” Harrison said. “Over the years, everyone seems to have developed their place in the world.”
During the previous school year, Sampson County had 5,654 riders and the city had 1,600. A total of 161 buses traveled about 11,285 miles each day, or more than 2 million miles during the year.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.