School bus fees double but service still heavily subsidized

Those big yellow school buses will be back on the road next week, ferrying some 5,500 students to classes in the Central Okanagan school district. Each one of those kids will be paying $200 to get to and from school, double what it cost last year, as the school board found ways to balance its $220-million budget for 2015-16.
Image Credit: iStockphoto

KELOWNA - Those big yellow school buses will be back on the road next week, ferrying some 5,500 students to classes in the Central Okanagan school district.

Each one of those kids will be paying $200 to get to and from school, double what it cost last year, as the school board found ways to balance its $220-million budget for 2015-16.

Secretary treasurer Larry Paul says there have been some complaints, but mainly from newer parents who don’t remember the fee was cut in half three years ago and had only just gone back up.

“The parents who have been around, there’s some grumbling, but then they pay. It’s the ones who think their fee has just doubled who are not happy.”

Paul points out parents aren't paying 100 per cent of the $700 per student total cost for the bus service.

"And we’re one of the more efficient systems," he says. "Maple Ridge schools all start at the same time so they can’t do loops like we can. Their cost is $1,200 per student.”

Paul says he has previously recommended to the board of trustees they ask for full cost recovery — an extra $3 million — from parents for the bus service but the board decided against it.

Conversely, the board could hypothetically save even more if it discontinued the service.

“That’s almost a $4-million department. If we didn’t have to offer that service, that’s what we could save or redirect," he says.

Paul says cancelling the service, while cost effective, would put enormous pressure on Kelowna Transit, which already transports an unknown number of school kids who live within school bus limits.

“Transit does a great job with the ones who can’t get on our system and they are stuffed in the morning and stuffed at night. They couldn’t handle another 5,500 kids for just 15 minutes in the morning and the afternoon.”

To contact the reporter for this story, email John McDonald at jmcdonald@infonews.ca or call 250-808-0143. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

Editor's Note in response to allegations from Vernon RCMP Supt. Jim McNamara
Editor’s note: • Watch shifts at the Vernon detachment have fallen to as low as three roadable officers. • The department suffers from chronic understaffing. • Sources, who we trust and who have knowledge of the s

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