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City Schools need to go that extra mile

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By The Staff

We hear the words more often lately - budget cuts, recession, economic downturn. No one is sheltered from the ramifications - especially our government agencies that count on tax dollars to make ends meet.

So, it comes as no real surprise that one of our school systems is looking at the possibility of raising the mileage fee it charges school groups for extracurricular trips.

We can be relatively sure that there will be many more such proposals if budget cuts reach the level already being discussed in Frankfort.

We don't have a problem with legitimate discussion.

But had it not been for Campbellsville School Board member Suzanne Wilson, we wonder how much discussion would have taken place on the issue of a mileage increase?

After all, had Wilson not said something, the idea of raising mileage fees from $1.30 to $3.86 a mile could have been approved and slipped by relatively unnoticed. That's because the measure was on the school board's consent agenda - an area usually confined to elements of business that require cursory approval.

We're not saying there were sinister motives. After all, state auditors recommended that an increase be levied.

Not that "consent" items can't be discussed, we just feel that a proposal of this nature should have warranted a spot of its own on the agenda.

By comparison (see front page story in the Monday, Jan. 21 News-Journal) the City Schools' mileage proposal is an eye opener - a 200 percent increase over what it is charging now and $3.54 cents-a-mile higher than the lowest fee charged by a nearby school system - 32 cents a mile in Hart County.

It could be that Campbellsville is ahead of the game and is moving along a path other school systems will have to follow too.

But an item that will affect so many students (and when students are affected, so are parents) we'd have thought a more complete discussion would have been planned.

As readers can see by the chart accompanying Monday's story, Campbellsville's mileage proposal has the potential for changing school trips - possibly eliminating some - forever.

Raising the mileage fee may well be the only alternative in these times of tight finances. But we think the proposal deserved more than a consent agenda introduction.

What kinds of trips will the school system, students and parents be able to afford at $3.86 a mile?

Parents and the community are already asked to give extra to support extracurricular activities. How much more is there to give?

Not every student is involved in extracurricular activities, but the offer of such activities rounds out one's education - whether it be sports, band or academic team.

The school system has provided board monies to help pay for travel expenses in the past - $21,000 last year for athletic teams. But under new budget conditions how much board money will be available is still in question.

How chilling an effect a mileage increase would have on participation is unknown. But the subject deserves the time to discuss the pluses and minuses.