Bus-ad amendment aims to help schools boost revenue

Indiana Senators voted 49-0 last week in favor of a bill that could help Westfield Washington Schools and other publicly funded districts keep their buses on the road.

House Bill 1062 also picked up an amendment in the Senate that would allow three cash-strapped central Indiana districts—including Zionsville Community Schools—to test the idea of accepting school-bus advertising to help pay for transportation.

State Rep. Todd Huston, the bill’s author, supports the amendment from Sen. Pat Miller, telling IBJ on Monday that it could allow districts to tap new sources of revenue. Eleven states already allow advertising on school buses.

The measure now returns to the House, which passed the original legislation 94-0 on Jan. 30. Huston said while the bill may get some final fine-tuning in conference committee, he expects it to land on Gov. Mike Pence’s desk this month.

Although the new bus-advertising provision is grabbing headlines, he said the primary purpose of the bill is to fix a problematic state law that is jeopardizing school transportation budgets.

As IBJ reported in January, nearly 60 school districts across the state stand to lose at least 20 percent of the tax revenue collected for transportation, bus replacement and capital projects (think building maintenance and technology upgrades) because of so-called protected levy legislation set to take effect this year.

Westfield Washington, which could lose 91 percent of its transportation funding, has notified the state Department of Education that it will stop transporting students to school in three years unless the situation is resolved.

Zionsville schools could lose about 52 percent of a $3 million annual transportation levy without the fix HB 1062 offers. Officials say advertising on its 74 buses could produce $10,000-$60,000 per year, based on results in similar-sized districts in other states.

“Obviously, we’re interested in that,” said Chief Financial Officer Mike Shaver.

What’s your take on the transportation problem—and potential solutions?

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