MORGAN -- Because the Legislature has decreased transportation funding in the past few years, Morgan County School District is going in the red just carrying students to school.
District officials have had to pull $115,000 from its general fund to cover transportation costs this year alone.
That money could have gone instead to teachers' salaries and benefits, said Business Administrator D'Lynn Poll.
"We are in tough times," said board member Bruce Galbraith. "We have a deficit that's unbelievable."
The Morgan County School Board recently voted to increase the transportation levy to its max to try to handle what Superintendent Ken Adams labeled a "transportation deficit."
How the move would affect taxpayers will be spelled out more thoroughly during an upcoming truth-in-taxation hearing.
In her time employed with the district, Poll said, she has seen state funding for transportation go from 82 percent to 62 percent.
"The Legislature is very comfortable funding it at only 60 percent, even though we are mandated to transport kids to school," she said.
It takes about $620,000 each year for the Morgan district to transport students to and from school, and an additional $35,000 for field trips and other extracurricular activities.
The board declined to pass the costs on to student athletes in the form of increased activity fees.
However, the board is encouraging the option of approaching school parent-teacher organizations to help fund transportation for field trips.
In the meantime, officials say it may be time to ask school groups to limit their transportation requests.
"An emphasis on limiting (athletic and extracurricular) trips worked for a while, but we need to do it again," Adams said.
Board member Ken Durrant plans to contact the Legislature about the issue.
"The Legislature doesn't seem to understand that bigger city schools don't need that type of transportation," he said.
"The rural communities take it in the shorts."