School board seeks public input on transportation charges
Tahoe Truckee Unified School District boardmembers and staff decided to look to the community to see how parents feel on the issue of charging for school bus service at last week’s board meeting.
“Nothing was decided in terms of charging, but the board directed staff to find out what it would cost and what it would look like if the board approved an official study on the issue of charging for transportation,” said TTUSD Superintendent Pat Gemma. “The purpose of the study would be to identify the pros and cons of charging for home-to-school transportation.”
He said he is in the process of calling firms who do that type of consulting work and checking costs.
“One of the considerations is what level of pay would be tolerated without negative consequences,” he said.
Possible negative consequences the board is considering include the possibility of a drop in bus ridership, negative feelings toward the school district and a lack of support for the district on bond measures.
Board President Suzanne Prouty said that communicating with the public on this issue is very important.
“We don’t want to go out and make it an issue. We want to ask people what they want,” said Prouty. “I want to ask parents what they feel about paying for their kids’ transportation.”
She said they also need to ask parents if they would drive their children to school if asked to pay for transportation, and what that would mean for traffic and safety.
“We need to ask, what is the impact of safety in general of parents driving their kids to school?”
Prouty’s particular concern with bond measures is how it will affect support for Measure S when it comes up for reelection. She doesn’t want to lose support for the bond.
“By paying for Measure S you get local discretion over dollars, and that’s what’s important to people,” she said. The board will return in August to make a recommendation, but the earliest the levy could be implemented is the second semester of the 1999/2000 school year.
Boardmember Karen Van Epps, who represents the Lakeside, strongly supports the idea of charging for home-to-school transportation and said the idea is a good alternative to making classroom program cuts.
“It’s really not about charging for transportation, it’s about higher learning and quality education,” she said. “Our community wants quality education, but it’s going to cost and we need to find ways to pay for that. We’ve got a budget that’s always short. It seems like we need need to do some serious restructuring.”
“I hope we don’t have to cut programming. It’s our job to make the tough choices, but (the community) elected us to protect the children in this district,” she said.
Fees for student transportation could be up to $1 a day per student, $180 annually. If approved at $1 per student, and 1,500 students pay the full rate, it would generate about $270,000 for the district.
Other suggested rates were 80 cents per day, or $144 per year, for a revenue of $216,000; 75 cents per day, or $135 per year, for a revenue increase of $162,000 and 50 cents per day for a $90 annual fee and a revenue increase of $135,000.
However, the figures may not be that accurate because students who receive free and reduced lunches would be partially or fully exempt from the transportation charges. California law declares home-to-school transportation of regular students optional, but schools are required to provide transportation for special education students and must charge a reduced rate or provide such services free to students eligible for free or reduced lunches.
Prouty said they will ask parents how much they are willing to pay, if willing to determine a reasonable transportation fee.
“What’s reasonable for one kid, may not be reasonable for another.”
A committee will be formed to look into these matters, said Prouty, and report its findings in August. One of the things the committee will do when possible is set up a statistically accurate and neutral survey and distribute it within the community.
-By Abby Hutchison
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