Chilliwack trustees scrap bus fees

Chilliwack school district will no longer be charging students for busing starting next year.

Starting next year, no student in Chilliwack will be charged for busing.

After two years of charging all students for transportation, Chilliwack trustees voted in favour of dropping the fee.

The school district registered a $72,000 surplus in its first year of charging for transportation and estimates an $85,909 surplus for this year.

Ongoing expenses, which include software and staffing, are $80,735.

“No business would spend the same amount of money to collect fees,” said trustee Silvia Dyck. “The cost-benefit analysis is a wash.”

The district started charging bus fees in 2010, after experiencing ongoing shortfalls in the range of $290,000 every year since 2002 when the government froze funding for transportation.

Secretary treasurer Maureen Carradice said the issue at the time the decision was made was whether money intended for classrooms and infrastructure should be taken from the operating budget to support a small number of students, 20 per cent of the district’s total population, who were utilizing transportation.

A $200 per student fee, up to a maximum $600 per family, was implemented in 2010.

The provincial government recently increased its funding formula, which helped increase transportation revenue.

Trustees were presented with a range of options, which included continuing to charge all riders, charge only conditional riders, create a graduated payment system for families with more than one rider, refund the transportation fee, cancel the fee and reduce service, or cancel the fee and maintain service as is.

Trustees were warned by Carradice that if the fee was canceled outright, it would be difficult to charge for busing again.

Trustee Doug McKay suggested the board suspend the fee for the 2012-13 school year and reassess their options in April 2013.

But other trustees were not amenable.

Trustee Martha Wiens said the bus fees have “left a bad taste” amongst the community. And Dyck said that a delay in the decision would still cost the district by way of staffing and software.

“I don’t believe we need to be doing this,” said Dyck. “This board needs to make a decision and stand by it.”

As of July, the bus fee will be canceled, and the transportation service will continue as is.