An audit of the 2017-18 school year was presented to the Red Oak ISD Board of Trustees at the October meeting and highlighted several positives. The board also heard an update on the bus driver shortage and is in the midst of finding a solution.

Red Oak ISD Chief Financial Officer Vickie Benbow introduced Dan Tonn, an auditor with Hankins, Eastup, Deaton, Tonn & Seay, who explained some differences in the audit process and highlighted positive items.

“The audit went very well,” emphasized Tonn. “The district is in good financial condition. Its financial condition is improving.”

Some of the positives Tonn took away from the report were from the governmental fund statements that include the general and debt services funds. A total of $12.6 million is in the general fund, which was a significant improvement.

“The general fund balance increased over $2.1 million during the year,” Tonn explained. “You have really made a lot of progress over the three to four years in fund balance. Several years ago, the fund balance was somewhat low for a district your size.”

The debt services fund is at $5 million and is “a healthy fund balance. That fund balance is up by $800,000,” Tonn elaborated. These are the primary funds that bond-rating agencies look at.

“I think you, as a board, should be commended for that,” Tonn expressed.

When Tonn analyzed the financial strengths of the district, he scrutinized the fund balances as well as the tax base and enrollment and noted all three have increased at a healthy rate.

Tonn also informed the board that ROISD received a total of $3.2 million in federal funding.

There was a new accounting standard, which deals with post-employment benefits, that the board and all governmental entities were required to adopt. As a result of this required posting, the district’s liability relating to the Texas Teacher Retirement System’s medical plan for retirees, plus the required reporting relating to the Texas Teacher Retirement System’s pension plan, the government-wide statement reflects a negative net position.

The board unanimously approved the 2017-18 financial audit.

Another in-depth discussion was presented by Kevin Freels, assistant superintendent of district operations, who provided an update on transportation. He noted the district suffers from a bus driver shortage.

With a total of 49 staff members in the transportation department, eight more bus drivers are still needed.

Currently, there are 30 drivers and one in the midst of training. There are three part-time monitor/drivers, nine monitors, two in the service department and four people in an admin/dispatch role.

“Since school has started, we’ve lost five drivers. But then we have replaced those and are still divers short,” Freels explained.

Other certified staff members, teachers and coaches have helped out when they can, and Freels assured students are dropped off and taken to school within the designated schedule. Freels explained the problem is when drivers are needed for extracurricular activities.

“We aren’t where we need to be, but we are making it work,” Freels expressed.

He then provided an update on the ages of the buses with a total of 39 traditional buses ranging from 1995-2018. Seven yellow buses are over 15 years old, and 23 of them are more than 10 years old. A total of 28 buses are on daily routes while seven are reserve buses and four are utilized as shuttles only.

There are a total of 13 special education buses that range from models produced between 2006-2019.

Over the years, the percentage of riders has increased with a 10-percent hike in high school ridership this school year.

“A lot of them are not driving like they used to,” explained Freels. The two largest percentages to increase are at the middle and high school level.

Bus drivers currently drive a total route of 2,474 miles per day.

Freels reported that elementary students walk up to 2/10ths a mile, while secondary students walk 5/10th a mile to his or her stop.

This year, the district incorporated an app and website to communicate with parents in real time to check where the bus is and shows when the route has been completed.

Trustee John Anderson said the driver shortage has been an ongoing issue for years. He asked if the district could be of "aid more since some drivers are doing a big job."

Freels share that a new benefit to drivers is that they are now paid hourly instead of a flat fee for extracurricular trips this year, which puts more money in their pocket.

Next month, Freels will present data on comparisons of financials with area districts to create a solution to hire more drivers and make ROISD a competitor.

The board approved a classroom waiver for one kindergarten student at Eastridge Elementary, as well as the consent agenda. The Flight 2023 plan was approved and an in-depth report will be provided later.

The board closed the regular meeting at 8:07 p.m. and went into closed session. The board reconvened at 10:41 p.m. and passed the personnel report.

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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450