District to consider charging for busing

The agenda package for the SD57 school board meeting for January 26th has been made public, and in it is a recommendation being made to the board from their Education Services Committee to implement a $100 rider fee for all student riders.

This has not passed as yet, and if passed on Tuesday night, would not be immediately implemented, but would be referred to the Budget Consultation Committee.

At the moment, the tentative plan would be to charge a $100 rider fee for all regular and custom student riders, including courtesy riders, for use of the existing student transportation program, that maximum of $300 be collected per family, and that the financial hardship policy apply (if a family can’t afford the fee, the district will cover the cost).

The board spends about $4.5 million on transportation, on a total budget of over $140 million. They are estimating that this fee would bring in about $263,000, to help cover this cost.

The provincial government is requiring that all school districts make cuts to “administrative” expenses:

“For heaven’s sakes, if the health-care system can do it, if the advanced-education system can do it, so can local school governments,” Clark said. “And taxpayers deserve that savings. It’s low-hanging fruit and I know that they’ll be able to find it.” – See more at: http://www.timescolonist.com/news/local/clark-rankles-school-trustees-labelling-cuts-low-hanging-fruit-1.1774950#sthash.tbyY0ANI.dpuf

Here is the board agenda package: http://www.sd57.bc.ca/Board/BoardMeetings/Agendas/Documents/2016.01.26%20Board%20agenda.pdf

Here’s a link to only this particular motion: admin savings – student transportation

Some frequently asked questions:

Can I attend the board meeting?

Of course! Public board meetings are public, and there is a gallery section. Chairs and wifi are provided (ask at the front desk for the wifi). Before the meeting starts at 7pm, people can sign up for a public input session, and speak for 5 minutes (maximum 30 minutes public input). From a glance at the agenda, it may be a longer board meeting, so be prepared. More information: http://www.sd57.bc.ca/Board/BoardMeetings/Pages/default.aspx

You can also watch the board meeting through a video link (don’t use the Microsoft Edge browser, though).

Don’t the school taxes I pay with my property taxes cover this?

There is not a direct link between school taxes and the amount of money a district get, or what a district charges students.

My child doesn’t currently qualify for busing, as we live within the walk limits – does this mean we can get busing?

At the moment, it doesn’t look as if the rules around who gets bused would change. This is not to expand the program, but to recoup some costs.

What do other districts do?

Page 3 of this document shows a number of other districts: admin savings – student transportation

Of districts listed, only Qualicum charges less than $100 a year. Maple Ridge is planning to completely drop providing busing to students. More here: http://globalnews.ca/news/1970132/with-b-c-school-districts-strapped-for-cash-buses-are-a-common-chopping-block/

Would it be cheaper to drive my kids?

You may wish to check the math, as it appears it would be more expensive to pay for gas.

What is the financial hardship policy?

This is a policy “to facilitate participation by students of school age ordinarily resident in British Columbia who would otherwise be excluded from the course, class or program because of financial hardship.”

https://www.sd57.bc.ca/Policies/Documents/5101.pdf

According to this policy, “All communication with students and/or parents regarding fees and deposits must include a statement that explains that fees will not be a barrier to student participation in school activities. ” Note: If this is not being done at your school, please bring it to your principal’s attention.

Why would the district be doing this for a measly $263,000 savings?

The district is facing some very real financial pressures from the provincial government. DPAC is anticipating more serious cuts, possibly to come in the upcoming budgeting process. People are encouraged to talk to their local MLA regarding these cuts to administrative spending – there is no “low-hanging fruit” left, in this district.

What will the District Parent Advisory Council be doing about this?

As a DPAC, we represent the voice of parents to the district, and continue our work with various school district committees to bring forward that parent voice.

We are concerned about this fee, the impact it may have on parents, and how it may be implemented – and we are also very concerned about the district’s financial position.

Parents are always welcome to attend DPAC meetings – the next one scheduled is for Monday, February 1st (check this website for more details). Let us know what you think!

 

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