School Budget Crunch Puts Privatization on the Table

HILLSDALE–Hillsdale Community Schools is a district in a financial pinch, and board members are considering a variety of options to address the problem.

For Fiscal Year 1998-99, Hillsdale faces a deficit of more than $670,000–an amount that will consume two-thirds of the district’s $1 million reserve. Declining enrollment and increasing overhead and staff salaries are primarily to blame, reports the Hillsdale Daily News. The district lost 100 students between 1997 and 1998 and more reductions are expected in the years immediately ahead.

To eliminate future deficits, the district has offered buyouts to teachers with at least 11 years of service. Superintendent Margo Hubbell presented a list of 14 recommendations to save additional money, including consolidating hours for cooks, scaling back sports programs, reducing support staff positions, eliminating driver education, and privatizing busing.

Superintendent Hubbell has talked to at least two transportation companies, Ryder and Laidlaw, about the possibility of bus privatization. If it happens, one of the companies would likely buy the district’s bus fleet and replace it with newer vehicles and provide all maintenance and repairs. If it doesn’t happen, Hubbell says the district may have to consider purchasing some new buses nearly every year to keep up with its aging fleet.