The Belgrade School District has been offering the use of its school buses for non-profit groups for decades, but the Board of Trustees heard a pitch by its money handler to discontinue the practice due to liability and cost issues.
But Transportation Director Robert Evans said the service is valuable to the community and district can find a way to continue the practice. The district currently charges fuel and driver wages to a host of groups ranging from Boy Scouts and Bridger Kids Camp to Clubhouse Daycare and Boys & Girls Club among others.
District Clerk Jay Bates was combing through the books and decided to investigate the current practice. According to Bates, the system needs to be reworked because “wear and tear” are not counted in the fee base.
“When these buses wear out, we have to replace them,” he said. “These groups are receiving the benefit but they are not always the taxpayers that replace the buses.”
Superintendent Candy Lubansky said the district provides the liability insurance, which increases “exposure” to potential lawsuits.
Also, Bates said the state doesn’t allow yellow buses to be used for anything but student transportation. But the state does allow for activity buses like ones owned by the school district.
In other words, “you can’t do it, but if you do it then this is how you do it,” Trustee Renae Mattimoe explained.
Bates is against the move because it puts the district “unnecessarily at risk and exposed to added liability.” He also said few other districts around the state operate its buses commercially.
“I believe we are in the business of educating students rather than in the busing business,” he wrote in his recommendation.
But Bates said the district would have to set up an enterprise fund to continue the service.
Trustees where tentatively behind the measure, but didn’t want to officially vote until more information is available. Board members said they want more specifics related to costs, number of busses needed, fees, defining participants, state law and what the enterprise fund would entail.
Evans pushed for the measure saying the service fits into the school district’s mission and values, and only idle buses are used.
“In order for people to be involved with us, we have to also be involved with them,” he said. “We do it because we believe it’s a good thing to do,” he added later.
The board will discuss the matter again at the February meeting.