Thursday, November 26, 2015         

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School bus fares poised to go up again

A proposed 50-cent increase would mean $800,000 more revenue

By Mary Vorsino


Students would pay $1.25 for a one-way school bus ride, or 50 cents more, under a fare increase proposal aimed at helping make up a $9 million legislative cut in funding to student transportation.

The fare increase, set to take effect Aug. 1, will cover only a fraction of the funding reduction, and so Department of Education officials warn that other steps, including eliminating some routes, are also being considered.

The DOE will present a report to the Legislature in November outlining other potential solutions for paring student transportation costs.

Under the new fare schedule, approved Tuesday by the Board of Education Finance and Infrastructure Committee, the price for quarterly and annual passes would also go up. The cost of a quarterly pass would rise to $72 from $60. An annual pass would cost $270, from $225.

The department noted that most students opt for quarterly or annual passes.

The proposal goes to the full board for final approval.

The last time the DOE increased fares was in January 2010, when a one-way ride rose to 75 cents from 35 cents.

The proposed fare increases are expected bring in an additional $800,000 in revenue, assuming a 5 percent decrease in ridership.

Randy Moore, assistant superintendent for facilities and support services, told board members Tuesday that other measures will be needed to cover the rest of the funding reduction.

"In the extreme, you simply stop providing service," he said.

The Legislature appropriated $49.3 million in general funds for student transportation this fiscal year, from $58.9 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30.

The cost for providing student bus transportation, meanwhile, is expected to hit $74 million this fiscal year (up $2 million from last fiscal year).

Companies that provide student bus transportation testified against the fare increase Tuesday, saying it would hurt families already struggling in the economic downturn.

They also said they would work closely with the department to figure out ways to make school bus service more efficient.

In the 2010-11 fiscal year, student fares brought in only about $3 million, partly because many students ride for free.

Of the 37,000 general-education public school students statewide who ride school buses, about 54 percent pay nothing because they come from low-income households.

In addition, about 3,926 special-education students also get free curb-to-curb bus service.

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