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Roundup: Mobile Food Program Delivers Food and Smiles, A Tax Rate for Transportation and More

A dozen smiling youngsters boarded a school bus, but they weren’t going to school. They were sitting down to eat lunch. The repurposed bus is one of two mobile cafeterias that visit children where they live and play. Every weekday this summer, the buses bearing “KIDS EAT FREE” signs on the windows and modified to have cafe-style benches and tables inside, travel across the county delivering lunches to children who might otherwise go without. The program began June 8, and so far the district has been serving an average of 275 children in the north community and an average of 225 children in the south community, with numbers increasing daily. “It puts a smile on our faces seeing them running up to the bus,” said an Oslo Middle School cafeteria manager. “They’re waiting on us to get here, so it makes us feel good when we make that turn.”

Penn Hills school directors approved an $82.6 million budget for 2016-17 that raises the property tax rate by a 7-2 vote in an attempt to fix the district’s net deficit of $7.6 million as well as an effort to rein in spending. The new tax rate will generate $3.2 million in new revenue. To ease the burden for taxpayers, the school board approved a resolution to allow residents to pay their taxes in eight monthly installments. A specific line item showed a significant reduction is the cost of student transportation. The district has budgeted $4.46 million for student transportation compared with $6.7 million for last year. The budget includes a reduction in fuel costs of $750,000.

For three days in a row, 43 Huntsville City Schools buses have been vandalized with fire extinguishers. Now, police in Alabama need help in catching a person or persons responsible for vandalizing several buses, including the ones used for handicap transportation. It happened at the Durham Bus Services parking lot. Huntsville police posted on social media there have been several incidents.

A Florida school bus driver and attendant who faced charges of child neglect for leaving a teen with special needs on a school bus have been cleared of all charges. The state attorney announced the decision in a court filing, stating that “the facts in this case, while concerning, do not rise to the level of felony Neglect of a Child.” The case grabbed the attention due to the shocking video, showing the 13-year-old with special needs, walking around an empty bus and finally climbing out of a window to escape. He then hitch-hiked 30 miles to get home. It happened on two separate occasions. Bus attendant Gwendolyn Simmons will move on and try to rebuild her reputation. “I’m going to move on with my life,” she said.

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