By Heather Mullinix
The Cumberland County Board of Education approved partnering with a company to offer color advertising on county buses during its October meeting.
Todd Isaacs, with Atlanta-based District Solutions, said, "As many of you know, budgets have been cut and revenue from property taxes is down. The state granted the opportunity for school districts to have bus signs to help generate additional revenue without additional taxes."
The program would offer advertising space to local businesses on the rear quarter panels of the buses, with signs not to exceed 16 inches by 60 inches. With 61 busses in the school system fleet, the school system could see revenue up to $5,000 a month.
Isaacs said the law prohibits advertising gambling, alcohol or tobacco products, advertising involving sex or advertising that is political.
"We'll be looking at banks, dentists and similar businesses," Isaccs said. "And, the school system will have final approval."
District Solutions works with Blount County to provide bus advertising, which has raised $15,000 for the school system in the first two months, Isaacs said.
The program also offers benefits to advertisers who have their signs seen all along the route the bus takes every day school is in session, providing a good return on investment. Costs can be up to $150 to produce the sign, which is affixed to an aluminum backing and attached to the bus. Isaacs said he would work with a local sign company to produce those. Advertisers would pay that cost. Then, advertisers would pay a monthly fee of anywhere from $75 to $125 for the signs to be on the busses. That revenue would be split between the school system and the company, with schools seeing 55 percent of the revenue. The company would also hire one to two sales people locally to sell the advertising space.
Isaacs said the signs caused no damage to the bus or discoloration. Also, the company carried insurance to cover accidents caused should a sign blow off the bus, but he's never had that happen with the type of sign proposed.
Lane McAnally, transportation supervisor, noted there were signs on buses from a previous bus advertising program.
"We never lost one," he said.
The school system approved a bus advertising program in 2004, but at that time, state law only allowed bus advertising to be in black and white. In 2009, the state passed legislation allowing for color advertising.
McAnally said there had some interest in the bus advertising program in the past, but only black and white signs had been allowed. Pauline Sherrer, publisher of the Crossville Chronicle, assisted with the legwork as a community service, but the idea didn't catch on, he said.
Josh Stone, 4th District representative, questioned if the board should look to other companies for this type of service and make sure the school system was getting the best deal possible.
Richard Janeway, 2nd District representative, said, "We've had this for eight years and nobody has approached us yet. It's been in Tennessee code for 10 years. No one's knocking on our door. He [Isaacs] is seeking our business."
As a contracted service and revenue stream, the board does not have to seek bids. For more information, call (404) 983-3001.
Dan Schlafer, 9th District representative, moved to approve the proposal pending final contract approval by the executive committe. Janeway supported the motion. It was unanimously approved.
Under old business, Gordon Davis, 5th District representative, questioned a solar energy project, which had been voted down in August due to proposed placement of the panels at the schools.
David Bowman, 7th District representative, said, "We couldn't do it the way they had proposed because the panels were on sewer lines or where there were sports fields or playgrounds. I recommended we do as overhangs because that benefits the school system with covered walkways for the kids. But, it's up to them to come back with a proposal, as far as I'm concerned."
Director of Schools Aarona VanWinkle said she would follow up with Earth-Right Energy and Simple Energy Works, the two companies who previously presented solar energy projects to the board.
In other business, the board:
•Approved an overnight field trip for the Stone Memorial High School choir to attend a choir festival at David Lipscomb University in Nashville Nov. 16-Nov. 17.
•Approved an overnight field trip for the Cumberland County High School cross country team to attend the TSSAA state championship race in Nashville Nov. 2-3, pending qualification.
•Approved an overnight field trip for the Stone Beta Club to attend the state Beta Convention Nov. 19-20 in Nashville.
•Approved of a grant application from Stone Elementary to apply for a VEC Customers Share Grant.
•Approved of a Fuel Up to Play 60 grant application for Crab Orchard Elementary and Stone Elementary.
•Disposal of surplus inventory at South Cumberland Elementary School.
•Rescheduled regular monthly meetings for November and December due to conflicts with holidays. The November meeting will be held Nov. 29 at 6 p.m., and the December meeting will be Dec. 20 at 6 p.m.