Updated: January 10, 2012 at 12:00 am
Lewis-Palmer School District 38 officials are considering charging students 50 cents a ride for bus transportation next school year.
A task force of parents, teachers, staff, safety officials and other community members is gathering information on the feasibility of a fee-based system. A survey will be available in a few weeks, and community meetings to gather public input are planned.
“The fees are not a done deal,” Assistant Superintendent Cheryl Wangeman said. ”We don’t know where we will end up on this.”
The decision to consider bus fees was made at a December school board meeting as a financial precaution.
“We have asked the administration to look into it early so as not to be in a panic situation when we get budget numbers from the state,” said John Mann, school board member.
Lewis-Palmer, like other school districts, has been hit by severe state funding cuts the past three years. The governor has proposed that there be no cuts next year, but the legislature may have different ideas. Even without new cuts, districts are limping along because of past cuts.
D-38’s transportation costs are $2 million or about six percent of the district budget. There are 46 bus routes, including seven special need routes, that collectively log about 3,000 miles a day.
At present, 4,709 of the district’s 6,125 students are eligible for a bus seat.
A large number of students take the bus because D-38, which covers the Monument area, is fairly rural. Also, many of the more populated neighborhoods don’t have sidewalks.
Districts are required by law to provide free transportation only to special education students.
D-38 students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches would not be charged for bus trips if a plan is implemented, officials said.
Several nearby school districts have bus fees, including Academy School District 20, which will charge 50 cents per ride beginning in fall 2012. Falcon School District 49, began charging $1 per ride this school year. Douglas County School District charges 50 cents a ride; and Woodland Park School District RE-2, started charging $50 a year, per child, with a maximum of $100 per family in the 2010 school year.
The Lewis-Palmer task force will look at various issues, including family pocketbooks.
“We are will aware that families have been hurt by the economic downturn,” Wangeman said.
And there are other issues to consider, such as how much traffic might be generated around neighborhood schools by parents who decide to drive their kids instead of paying fees.
D-38 officials decided to use the $1 a day round-trip figure as a starting point in the discussions because other districts are charging that.
The fees would not pay for all transportation costs, but would result in an estimated $200,000 in revenue.
“We are trying to determine where the community’s school budget priorities are,” Wangeman said.
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