The Red Deer Public School district has voted in favour of increasing bussing fees in hopes of addressing an anticipated $378,952 deficit in its transportation budget.
“We are not an anomaly in the province – most districts are struggling with their transportation budget in some fashion,” said Bev Manning, board chair. “The discussion is that we have suffered with transportation funding for quite some time. It is insufficient. It is disappointing that it is insufficient and we have managed, but we just can’t manage any more, especially in this financial climate.
“It doesn’t make any of us happy to have to charge this fee – we tried to find some different options, but really this is about the only thing we could come up with that was fair to everyone who is using the service.”
Transportation fees for students in Kindergarten to Grade 5 who live under 1.6 km from the school will be charged $300, while students who live between 1.6 km and 2.4 km will be charged $150 and students who live over 2.4 km will pay $75.
Students in Grades 6-12 who live under 2.4 km will pay $300 and students who live over 2.4 km will be charged $75.
In addition to increasing revenue, administration proposed expense reductions and amending service levels to ensure student bussing is operated in the most effective and efficient manner.
Other recommendations included the double-shifting of buses for selected routes which is more efficient. This change would also see a minor adjustment to start and end times at affected schools. The district is also looking at alternatives for students using transportation services and attending Spanish Bilingual and Christian Alternative programs which are programs of choice and do not qualify for the same level of provincial funding.
In developing the recommendation, the district developed a common approach to addressing transportation fees and service levels with counterparts in Red Deer Catholic and Chinook’s Edge School Divisions who are facing similar challenges.
“This has been an ongoing issue for the district. It’s important that our student transportation system be self-sustaining and that is why we need to make these changes,” said Manning. “It means that those using the system will have to contribute to the shortfall. In the past, we have had to redirect funding for instruction to cover the deficit and we simply can no longer do so.”
While the recent provincial election saw a change in government which may impact overall funding for education, the district’s priority would be additional revenue to support instruction rather than transportation services.