School districts in the area have begun their budget presentations to the public. 's current budget is $157,235,514 and according to Superintendent of Schools Dr. George Stone, in 2012-2013.
Of the district's total budget, about 5.61 percent goes toward transportation costs. This year's approximate transportation costs are $8,819,300 and next year, the district estimates them to increase to $8,930,600.
"The budget increases every year due to contractual pay increases, fuel costs, tire replacements, parts and supplies, inspections, etc. all of which are going up in cost," Superintendent of Schools Dr. George Stone said.
Here is the breakdown of some of the numbers associated with the transportation budget:
- Including activities, public, non-public and special education, there are about 6,900 students transported by the district;
- The district uses 124 buses including spares; 110 are on regular routes every day;
- The transportation budget breaks out approximately: 50% in district routes; 40% out of district special education routes; and 10% non-public routes;
- The district has 450 routes daily, which are about an hour or less.
"We also work to have students who get on first get off first on the return trip to be fair," Stone said. "We expect our route times to remain very similar [next year]; however, we continually use software to update routes and try to make them more efficient."
Stone said the district's priority is always safety, which means keeping buses maintained and inspected regularly, as well as the district erring on the side of safety when making weather related calls. The district also has to make sure drivers are well trained and in constant communication.
"Challenges include accommodating all of the specific needs and requests," Stone said. "Meeting the arrival and dismissal needs of out of district transportation is very challenging. There are numerous schools outside the district close to each other, but may have very different times for arrival and dismissal. Drop off or pick up windows may be as small as ten minutes or less. This requires additional staff and additional buses, where larger time windows could save significant dollars.
Stone said most of these instances are related to contractual issues and state mandates regarding out of district transportation that requires them to transport longer distances and transport special education students to services that may already exist within the district.
"We hope to see legislation in the near future that will reduce transportation costs by limiting out of district service requirements," he said.
The Lakeland School District has a population of 6,323 students who live in six different towns: the towns of Yorktown, Cortlandt and Somers in Westchester County, as well as Carmel, Philipstown and Putnam Valley in Putnam County.