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Board raises public school bus fares

By Mary Vorsino

LAST UPDATED: 8:19 a.m. HST, Jul 20, 2011

Bus fares for public school students rose from 50 cents to $1.25 for a one-way ride.

The state Board of Education unanimously approved fare increases Tuesday. The cost of a quarterly pass also increased to $72 from $60, and an annual pass will rise to $270, up from $225.

The Department of Education will honor unexpired bus passes bought under the old prices.

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

About 3,926 special-education students also get free curb-to-curb bus service.

The increased fares, effective immediately, will generate an additional $1 million annually, assuming a 5 percent decrease in ridership because of the higher fares, the department said.

The fare increase is needed to help make up for a $9.6 million legislative cut in funding for student transportation.

Other steps will be needed, say education officials, who are considering eliminating some routes.

The department will present a report to the state Legislature in November outlining other possible solutions for paring student transportation costs.

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

Randy Moore, assistant superintendent for facilities and support services, said the increased fares will bring the cost of riding a school bus in line with city bus fares. TheBus charges youths age 6-17 $1.25 per ride or $30 for a monthly pass.

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 of providing student bus transportation, meanwhile, is expected to reach $74 million this fiscal year — $2 million more than the previous year.

Also Tuesday, the full board approved changes to school meal prices, decreasing the cost of a lunch for elementary school students by 10 cents, to $2.25, while increasing the price of a lunch for secondary school students to $2.50 from $2.35.

Secondary school students will also pay 10 cents more for breakfast, which will now cost $1.10.

Changes to meal prices will take effect Sept. 1.

The department said the price changes more accurately reflect the cost of preparing the meals.

Meals for secondary students cost more because they are larger than those in elementary school.

Correction: Bus fare increases approved by the Board of Education are effective immediately. An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the fare increases would take place on the first day of school on Aug. 1.

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