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Band bus issue revisited at school board meeting

Following complaints from Pitman High School Band regarding Turlock Unified School District buses, the district has come up with a solution that addresses one of two issues that came to light at a Board of Trustees meeting in September.

In an effort to come to a compromise with the band, which boasts approximately 162 members, the district presented a transportation update at Tuesday’s Board meeting that detailed a much-welcomed cost reduction for school bus usage.

“Our costs are decreasing by 12 to 15 percent, which is outstanding,” said Board member Barney Gordon. “I’m glad we looked at this and were able to decrease the cost of using district buses.”

During the update, interim assistant superintendent of financial services Ronna Fraser announced that the district has lowered both driver salaries by $2.70 per hour and cost per mile by 65 cents, thus making district buses more affordable for student programs.

“Through our review of the budget this year and the mileage driven last year, we noticed that our salaries have decreased significantly through attrition in the last few years, meaning our average salary has gone down,” said Fraser. “We also analyzed fuel costs and found that we no longer need to have a significant cushion, since fuel costs are not going up and down like they used to.”

TUSD director of transportation Edward McCrary also reported that the district will continue to monitor salaries as the budget changes, as well as fuel costs on a quarterly basis.

“If costs go up, we don’t want to infringe or encroach on our budget as a whole,” added McCrary.

However, cost was only one complaint that the Pitman Band had regarding district buses. Their main issue—as reported by a number of band members who attended a Board meeting in October—still rests in district buses’ lack of storage space.

“I really appreciate the job that the district did do in realizing that costs were overstated and have corrected it,” said Pitman Band Booster president Lori Denego. “However, our issue that still needs to be addressed is our storage needs—that is our primary issue.”

According to Denego, when the band is required to use district buses, it also must utilize a trailer, which is reaching capacity.

In the event that band reviews meet special need requirements, the band could potentially petition for the use of charter buses. To qualify for a need to use outside transportation, special trips must meet both the storage and distance requirements.

“Student programs are allowed to use charter buses. However, this approval is granted on a case by case basis,” wrote TUSD Superintendent Sonny Da Marto. “Charter buses can be used for specialized trips that involve long distances or have special storage needs.”