VBCSD reduces fees, approves bus contract

VANDALIA — Parents of students in the Vandalia-Butler City School District received good news at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting as Pay to Participate fees were dropped entirely for some and reduced significantly for others.

Fees for academic related clubs, activities, and committees were eliminated all together as part of a review of the district’s Pay to Participate fees. Those having fees eliminated entirely include Student Government, Academic Challenge, Chamber Choir, Debate, Spanish, and Latin Clubs as well as Muse Machine, Pep Band, and others at the high school level.

Middle School students involved in Yearbook, Diversity, Science, and Drama Clubs as well as National Junior Honor Society also will pay no Pay to Participate fee next school year.

Athletic fees were also reduced. Fees at Butler High School were reduced to $187.50 per activity, per student with a per student cap of $425. At Morton Middle School, the fees were reduced to $112.50 per activity, per student with a cap of $250. The reductions represent a 25 percent decrease overall.

Board President Bruce Sucher said that the elimination and/or reduction of the fees was important to the Board and Administration.

“I’m proud of the way everyone has worked together on this,” said Sucher. “(Treasurer) Eric Beavers has just done a tremendous job on this. We had a desire to eliminate as many fees as we could, especially in the area of academics, where fees were just inappropriate. Academics is our business and the thing we try to stay focused on. When we have students who are involved in activities that further their academics we should reward that and instead it was costing their parents money. We had some kids who couldn’t participate due to the fees. This move is just a win for everybody.”

Superintendent Bradley Neavin credited Beavers with finding ways to reduce the fees, including a savings of over 17 percent on the district’s health insurance costs in the coming year. That change, which will see the district buy health insurance through a consortium of other districts, will result in a savings of more than $400,000 in the coming year.

“Eric took the goal to reduce these fees as a personal challenge,” said Neavin. “Very clearly Eric is student-centered, and he gets it. It is great to work with a Treasurer whose focus is how to get resources into the classroom and focused on students.”

“It was very exciting tonight,” said Beavers. “It was a night of giving back to the community. Students need those chances and those opportunities, it’s why I do what I do. This may be their once chance, and they need it for social skills and they need it for academics.

In other action, the Board gave final approval to an agreement with Community Bus Services to take over the district’s transportation services as of July 1. Community Bus Services will replace First Student, Inc. whose rocky school year saw them ousted just two years into a five year deal.

Community Bus Services will be paid at a base rate of $1.18 million per year not including field trips and extra-curricular transportation.

The district recently approved a lease-purchase of 24 new buses at a cost of $1.925 from Cardinal Bus and six used buses at a cost of $242,000.

Neavin said that the agreement with Community Bus will enable the district to reduce its current two-mile radius for bus service down to a one-mile distance. Also, students west of I-75 who attend Demmitt Elementary will now have bus service. Students at Morton and Smith Schools should also see enhanced service, although all details were not available at press time.

Neavin expressed confidence that Community Bus would provide better service than First Student.

“Being a truly Ohio company that is truly family-owned will play out in the service they provide,” he said.