The soaring cost of gas has trickled its way into the Abbotsford School District’s budget.
Bus fees will rise in the fall by $20 to $40 depending on each student or family’s designation. Regular riders currently pay $400 annually, and that will increase to $420. Families with more than one regular rider will now pay $630, up from $600.
Regular riders are those that travel from home to their catchment area school.
Students who cross catchment boundaries or travel to a program school pay more annually, rising from $600 to $630. And families with more than one cross boundary rider will rise from $800 to $840.
As is currently the guideline, students who live outside of the walk boundaries of their catchment area will not pay bus fees.
The rise in fees is directly related to the rise in gas prices, the district’s secretary treasurer said at the May 10 board of education meeting.
Ray Velestuk told the board that he went with a small increase because families are already feeling the pinch at the pump, as well as being directly impacted by increases in costs at the grocery store.
In the same presentation to the board, he walked through the main points of the upcoming year’s preliminary budget.
The district is adding just $75,000 to the transportation budget for the upcoming year to accommodate the extra costs of fuel. He noted that this year, the district was “well within our budget for fuel,” and that topping it up will easily accommodate the extra cost.
Some of the other changes the district is planning for next year include a reduction of eight full time teacher positions, but no changes to support staff, EAs, principals or vice principals.
They are also earmarking $400,000 for the new labour standards requirement for sick days, although Velestuk pointed out that they don’t know how many sick days will be taken in advance.
The district will be saving $780,000 in the next year thanks to a benefit plan premium holiday. However, substitute costs have “skyrocketed” this spring, and there’s no way of knowing how COVID will affect staffing levels throughout the next year.
The board discussed the fact that school districts are still dealing with the costs of COVID but without the benefit of extra funding from the Ministry of Education.
Trustee Korky Neufeld pointed out that “COVID is not over and we are still paying for it.”
Trustee Rhonda Pauls said that staff staying home when they are sick is a new normal, and that they are slowing the spread of even the common cold by doing so. By staying home, they are keeping schools from circulating illness and reducing overall absenteeism, she added.
“We should eventually experience a benefit,” she said.
“It’s an area we need to monitor,” Velestuk added.
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