School bus fees will rise next year for the majority of riders, although families with students attending a school of choice will see costs decrease.
Abbotsford’s board of education unanimously voted Tuesday to move to a single fee structure for bus riders, no matter which district school they attend.
With the district trying to balance its budget, the move is expected to bring in more than $125,000 in additional revenue. The district will still pay more to operate buses than it collects in fees. In 2014/15, bus revenue of $400,000 was dwarfed by $2.72 million in expenses.
“We wanted to be trying to recoup a little bit more of our costs,” school board chair Cindy Schafer said. “We’re trying to split the difference and find that middle ground that seems reasonable.”
This year, 2,749 students use the district’s school buses, of which 1,162 take the bus to get to a school of choice. The majority of the rest are regular riders, but also include special needs students who take specialized buses, aboriginal students whose fees are subsidized, and students in career programs who take the bus to go to classes at the University of the Fraser Valley.
For next year, individual riders will cost $300, while families will pay $500 for bus service. That is an increase for families with students who go to their catchment area school, and who previously paid $200 for a single student or $400 for a family.
Fees for students who go to a school of choice will see costs drop. They had been paying $350 for a single rider or $700 for multiple students. Schools of choice are: Abbotsford Traditional secondary and middle; King Traditional elementary; South Poplar Traditional elementary; ASIA North Poplar and Sumas Mountain; Chief Dan George Middle; and WJ Mouat secondary. Mouat and Chief Dan George also have catchment students, while South Poplar has no bus service.
Schafer said she knows the move won’t make everybody happy, but said “we’re hoping this is still a reasonable approach.”
She said the fees are similar to those in place several years ago, before a tiered structure was put in place.
In its preliminary budget, the district also noted that increased collection efforts will require prior year fees to be paid prior to registration for transportation services for the coming year.
Schafer said students whose families don’t have the ability to pay for bussing can gain exemptions from their school’s principal.