PIQUA — Ken Jones, the stepfather of two girls who attend Washington Primary, spoke during the public hearing portion of the Piqua City Schools Board of Education meeting on Wednesday to address the issue of his stepdaughters being stranded twice at their bus stop.
Jones, who said his daughters were left stranded for over 30 minutes after their pick-up time twice, said that he had addressed this issue to a PCS staff member and was told, “I don’t know what happened. We will make sure it won’t happen again” after the first time.
“The problem wasn’t handled correctly and wasn’t handled right the first time and I came to the board meeting in hopes for a resolution,” Jones said to the board. Jones said his wife, Kristen Jones, was five minutes away from leaving for a doctor’s appointment the first time.
“Had she left to go to her appointment, her girls would have been left on the porch locked out of the house with no way of knowing that they were not picked up for school,” Jones said. “The last thing I want is my kids to wait that long. I’d hate to see (Kristen) leave her kids with nowhere to go.”
Jones said with the second incident, a neighbor was taking their son to school, then picked up Jones’ daughters to drop off them to school.
“We got lucky that a neighbor was there taking her son to school and it worked out that way,” Jones said.
Superintendent Rick Hanes said this issue has happened to a few other students on the same bus route as Jones’ daughters ever since substitute bus drivers have taken the place of the regular driver. Hanes said the route recently changed and the drivers did not comply with the new changes.
Hanes agreed with Jones that the problem should have been handled after the first incident.
“We agree with you,” Hanes said, “We thought it was taken care of after the first time it was reported … our hope is to get the regular driver back.”
“Student safety is a top priority … sincere apologies to you and your kids,” board president Lori Webster said.
Business Coordinator Curt South physically stepped onto the bus and highlighted the route changes in the bus informational packet that were overlooked and showed the substitute driver after hearing of the second incident and the bus running late.
Jones said since the incidents, he has developed a contingency plan with his neighbor should his stepdaughters be left stranded at the bus stop again and told them to leave the bus stop after 15-20 minutes of waiting and go to their neighbor.
Treasurer Jeremie Hittle gave the five-year forecast that started in fiscal year 2013 up to fiscal year 2017. He reported that property taxes have been the main source of revenue for the district, followed by income tax and state foundation money.
“My concern is as we move through the forecast, where is the revenue coming from?” he said.
Hittle said state funding has been increasing over the last six years with a $2.3 million total increase, but has seen a decrease in property valuation of $27.1 million in four years.
“That’s quite significant in the big picture,” Hittle said, “As we start moving forward, we hope that turns around.”
The district also will not see a refund as a result of the Senate Bill 208 Personal Tangible Tax Reimbursement that some state schools will receive as a result of losing personal property tax revenue due to a tax change.
Hittle said the district is relying heavily on local increase in tax revenue and is hopeful with the increase in home sales.
Also reported was a 9.8 percent decrease in property values within the city of Piqua, with property tax revenue stagnant in fiscal year 2016. A tri-annual update will be completed in 2016, Hittle said.
Hittle reported expenses has increased over four years with spending at approximately $28 million in fiscal year 2013 and is predicted to be at $33 million in fiscal year 2017, which would be the first year in the forecast that would go into deficit spending.
The district will continue to work on cost-savings solutions to avoid deficit spending.
“Our district has gone eight years without deficit spending and it is our intent to continue that tradition as long as possible without affecting the classroom education of our students,” a statement at the meeting read. “We continue to remember the PCS Tax Payer Bill of Rights to make financial decisions.”
Board member Steve Greggerson and vice president of the board Frank Patrizio reported on a public community forum that took place recently about the vacant school sites.
“Overall, it was a good time to meet with the public,” Greggerson said.
“(The public doesn’t) want low-rent housing and apartment complexes,” Patrizio said. “In my view, there’s really no rush to make any big decisions on (vacant lots) in the near future.”
Hanes agrees with Patrizio on not rushing the issue of the vacant lots.
“We will continue the conversation … continue clearing sidewalks during snow fall,” Hanes said.
There were a lot of suggestions during the forum or “Coffee with the Superintendent” to turn the vacant lots into parks. A “peace park” was suggested as a “tranquility” park that is more of a serene place to go with little activity and the biggest new one was a dog park.
“The city wasn’t interested to maintain the parks … these are the desires of the community and hope city commissioners are listening and taking a step back,” Webster said.
As for the buildings project within the district, the project is in the “demolition phase.” Nicklin Learning Center is officially demolished with grass feed being planted as weather allows, South said, with the same happening at the Favorite Hill Primary location. Materials are being sorted at Wilder Intermediate and demolition has started at Bennett Intermediate and is slightly behind schedule. High Street Primary will follow in demolition.
Site work is being done at Piqua Central Intermediate and Springcreek Primary, with the turn lane nearly complete at Springcreek. The board approved to add parking spaces near the bus turn-around area. Springcreek Principal Connie Strehle expressed a need of additional spaces as some people have been parking in handicap spots that shouldn’t be.
Reach reporter Amy Barger at (937) 451-3340 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall.