Families who use school bus services will be asked to foot the bill next year, to fill the gap between provincial funding and actual costs of transporting students.
The district has an annual shortfall about about $400,000 for busing students to and from school. The board was given a report on Tuesday morning, to be discussed on Tuesday evening. The board discussed the issue for over an hour before voting 5-2 in favour of the bus fees.
The report states that fees would range depending on family size and eligibility.
An eligible rider per student fee would be $215 per year, with a maximum fee per family of $430 annually. Courtesy riders would pay an annual fee of $350 per student, with a maximum of $700 per family. A low income waiver will be available to families if needed, and the maximum any family would pay would be $700 per year.
The Chilliwack School District receives $2.3 million in funding from the province for student transportation each year, but spends $2.7 million. They shuttle about 3,000 students over 5,000 kilometres a day, aboard 35 school buses. Currently there are about 1,500 courtesy riders, and 1,300 eligible riders, but staff noted that those numbers will drop notably once the fees are in place.
School bus service has been eliminated in some cities to meet budget targets, including Delta and Coquitlam.
“This decision has been brought before the Board prior to the 2015/2016 Draft Budget due to the tight timeframes involved in communicating and implementing this plan in time for the next school year,” the report, written by secretary treasurer Gerry Slykhuis says. “In addition, as per the Budget Committee recommendation, the district would begin immediate investigation with the local transit authority with regards to marketing student ridership as an option to school bus use.”
Chilliwack had begun collecting fees in 2010, but scrapped them in April 2012 for the 2012/2013 school year. Trustee Silvia Dyck said at the time that the “cost benefit analysis is a wash” because the board was spending just as much to collect fees as it was earning. At that time, the bus fees were $200 per student with a $600-per-family cap.
The fee schedule for eligible riders is based on other school districts’ fees, while the $350 fee is equal to the cost of a monthly student pass on public transportation.
Watch for updates to this story.