JEFFERSON-The Ashe County Board of Education forwarded a tentative budget request to county finance staff Tuesday night, and approved a special incentive package that could help ease the district’s bus driver woes.
The district will forward a request of some $5.26 million to Ashe County Finance Director Sandy Long to help her prepare the budget requests county commissioners will ultimately use to craft the county’s 2016/2017 budget this summer.
That’s a bump – roughly $390,000 – from the figure commissioners approved for the 2015/2016 school year, or roughly $4.87 million.
Assistant Superintendent and Finance Director of Ashe County Schools Phyllis Yates said the increase can be attributed to roughly two requests – some 750 Chromebook computers and the 25 carts the district will use to support them and funding to help Blue Ridge Elementary alleviate its drive-time problems.
In the latter case, the money will be use to lengthen and widen the space parents can use to drop-off and pick-up students. As it stands right now, many parents end up waiting along a portion of NC-88 to pick-up their student, Superintendent of Ashe County Schools Todd Holden said.
Yates noted that the figures the Ashe County Board of Education approved on March 29, remain a preliminary request. The board won’t vote on its official budget request until it’s next scheduled meeting on April 11.
The district also approved a $300 perfect attendance bonus that would be paid to bus drivers who complete their morning and afternoon routes each day during the semester. That means $600 per school year for bus drivers with a spotless attendance record.
“We’ve got a lot of bus drivers are missing hours all across the board,” Holden said. “We have to pay subs but what we’d rather do is offer an incentive for perfect attendance that we hope will help us line out better scheduling in the long run.
The board also approved a raise in pay for “non-certified” district substitutes – that means positions like bus drivers, custodians and cafeteria employees but not teachers – from less than $11 per hour to $12 per hour.
Holden said that raise is meant to help the district find qualified subs should the need arise.
“Different sides of the same problem,” Holden said. “This has kind of been something that’s happened over the past couple years.”
Yates said the bus driver shortage is due in part to tougher requirements to earn and keep a commercial driver’s license, which all regular bus drivers and subs must hold.
“It gets a little harder all the time so more people say, ‘Why deal with this,” Yates said.
Reach Adam Orr at 336-489-3058 or Twitter.com/AdamROrr.