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      Alabama schools Superintendent Tommy Bice discusses meeting with Hoover school leaders over bus fees

      Alabama schools Superintendent Dr. Tommy BIce said he had a "productive meeting" with Hoover City School Superintendent Andy Craig (pictured) on Wednesday, April 23, 2014. (abc3340.com)
      MONTGOMERY, Alabama -- Alabama schools Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice met with Hoover City School leaders Wednesday,{} and he released a statement afterwards clarifying his position on the school system following its recent approval of school bus fees."I had a very positive and productive{}meeting today with Superintendent Andy Craig and Board Chair Paulette Pearson," Bice said before revealing his opinion on Hoover schools. "I consider Hoover City Schools a great school system{}that regretfully,{}has found itself facing a challenging{}financial dilemma," he said. "We have confirmed that its financial challenges are not due to financial mismanagement but, rather, an annual increase in the total student population paired with a decreasing state budget allocation in vital areas of operations (in this case, transportation and current units){}along with decreasing sources of local revenue."Bice said while Hoover's proposed fee-for-school-bus-service plan may "lessen the shortfall" of the system's declining funding sources, he expresses two main concerns with the idea and outlined the potential implications it could have both locally and statewide: "My concerns with the fee-for-service proposal{}for transportation are{}twofold,{}due to potential statewide implications: "1.{} It implies that funding for transportation is a local responsibility, as opposed to that of the Legislature{}as part of the State's Foundation Program."2.{} It{}could{}place Hoover{}City Schools{}in a position for long-term legal issues that{}have the potential to{}be far more costly than the projected savings."Bice said his concerns over the service plan doesn't mean it shouldn't be an option for Hoover, rather, one that should be "vetted fully through all legal avenues." "We have committed to work collaboratively with Mr. Craig and the Hoover City Board{}of Education{}in assessing multiple, viable solutions to its financial challenge, and our working relationship is solid," Bice said.A third concern he addressed in his statement is one involving the community becoming divided over the ongoing issue and financial challenges facing the school system, and he urged people on both sides of the debate to unite in their search for a long-term resolution."I would urge all interested parties to come together with{}Mr. Craig and the Board in the development of sound and long-term solutions to the challenge, realizing that sacrifices will be required to ensure the financial stability of the system," he said.Bice ended by reminding the Hoover community that the challenges facing the school system won't be fixed overnight, and it will take a collective effort to reach financial stability in the future. "The current situation{}will not be resolved{}in the immediate future,{}or with adjustments to{}just{}one funding area," Bice said. "It is at these times of challenge{}that{}great communities rally,{}not divide,{}and I have full confidence that will be the case in Hoover."