School bus ridership increase strains DCSS

ALBANY -- The Dougherty County School System's transportation budget is up $97,189 due to more students riding the bus to school.

Dougherty County School System Executive Director of Operations and Business Services Robert Lloyd told the school board about the increase during the monthly evening meeting Monday night.

"We're driving more labor hours," Lloyd said. "We estimated three (students) per seat and you can't put three people per seat in middle school and high school."

The larger ridership is causing the school system to use more drivers, which is requiring more maintenance on the aging fleet, Lloyd said. He noted after the meeting that the 155 buses in the fleet are about nine-10 years old. Buses can hold from 48, 66 and 84 passengers and there are also some shorter buses for special education in the fleet.

"We had to put more buses on certain routes where we were overcrowded," he said. "We have an aging bus system and underestimated the cost of spare parts, so we've had more breaking down."

Board member Michael Windom asked Lloyd during his presentation if the school system could purchase more buses. Lloyd said such an option was unlikely.

"At this point, we have nothing in our sales tax referendum that would say we'd buy new buses," Lloyd said.

Lloyd also told the board that the school system's general operating revenues are up after it sold property on Flint Avenue to the Head Start program for $75,000. The sale pushed the total revenues through November to $68,109.

The expectation of more state cuts was also expressed by Lloyd at the meeting. He also told the board members that nothing had been said officially about additional furlough days.

Board Chairman David Maschke said board members Emily Jean McAfee and Windom will part of the first Albany Area Chamber of Commerce/Board of Education's Joint Task Force.

Superintendent Sally Whatley requested moving the Jan. 11 board meeting to Thursday, Jan. 14, due to attending a Georgia Leadership Institute for School Improvement meeting. Board members voted 6-0 to support the request. Board member Velvet Riggins had an excused absence as she was out of town on business.