Transportation Fees a Heavy Burden for Clubs

As a result of the expenses of utilizing district vans and buses, Mock Trial has struggled to pay for transportation this year. According to Mock Trial adviser DeeDee Pearce, the $500 that the club receives from ASB only covers some tournament costs.

In the ‘06-’07 school year, the charge to use district vans and buses changed from $1 and $2 per mile to $2 and $4, respectively. Joe White, the MVLA District Associate Superintendent of Business Services, said that this was a change to make the price more indicative of the actual final expenses.

The fees for district transportation cover expenditures such as insurance, maintenance, gas and hiring a driver. According to White, the district tries to break even and also sets aside some money that is “not used for any general fund purposes,” but rather “isolated for future transportation needs.”

The district did not have enough financial “historical backing” to generate exact costs when the transportation service started in 2003. As a result, clubs would be charged additional fees to cover the cost at the end of the year. White said that fees at the end of the year that might not have been accounted for in a budget can now hopefully be avoided.

“Even though you look at it as doubling the rate, it was not the final charge out before,” White said. “[We changed the prices because] people that are trying to budget the number will have to pay right up front.”

Autoshop teacher Greg Ely, who maintains school vehicles, said that anyone can use the transportation. For coaches and teachers who do not wish to use the buses and vans for whatever reason, they can be reimbursed $0.505 per mile if they fill out a request. According to Principal Wynne Satterwhite, reimbursement is “not done so much” but can still happen.

According to Mock Trial member junior Mariam Martirosyan, the financial situation becomes increasingly difficult because the team uses three vans each time they travel, twice a week during competitions.

“It’s really difficult to get parents to drive,” Mariam said. “School transportation’s definitely helpful, but the prices are notoriously high.”

Other students who are in Mock Trial agree.

“Two or four dollars a mile—that’s pretty much what taxis cost,” said sophomore Tommaso Carli, who participates in Mock trial. “And everybody knows that you don’t want to use axis for long-distance trips or trips that take more than 10 minutes.”

Tommaso said that Mock Trial often has to leave some students behind because they cannot pay for enough space each time.

In order to cover the high transportation fees, Mock Trial students made and sold calendars, using student work from the Art Department and charging local vendors to advertise in the calendar.

Pearce said that “something needs to be taken into consideration” if students who are participating in a school event must fundraise to cover transportation.

Mock Trial is the primary non-athletic group that uses transportation. The per athlete $100 participation fee, which does cover transportation, was not changed last year. According to White, the reason was that athletics and school clubs are accounted for in different budgets, and so the problems faced with clubs did not emerge with athletics.

“We have athletic directors to manage a transportation account, while clubs have their own budgets,” White said. “The clubs decide what they want to do and run through ASB; they can be anywhere from a few members to a big number. The athletics is a school organization with set rules and regulations.”

Mock Trial students said that the budgets should not be split because of the difficulties that result. Maria said that there is “definitely a double standard” and that the “principle is bothersome.”

“If you compete in any way representing your school, you should probably be included in the same group,” Tommaso said. “Since both Mock Trial and athletics compete for the school, the money should definitely go in the same pool.”

Both White and Satterwhite said that the district transportation system is a good one and is cheaper than commercial bus services like Laidlaw.

“We’ve been able to get kids to and from where they need to be,” Satterwhite said. “To me, that means the system is working.”