New Transportation Fee Scenario(s?)

At the May 17 board meeting, the trustees passed the following motion:

The board directs the superintendent to provide alternative scenarios re: 2011-12 transportation fee schedule and report back to the board at the next public board meeting.

Today, the CBE presented three scenarios to the public:

1. A 68% increase (from $200 to $335/year/student) for charter bus students, with high school transit rebates staying the same (after rebate, high school students pay $357.50/year/student). This is the scenario that the administration originally presented on May 17.

2. A 48% increase ($295/year/student) for charter bus students, with the exception of Kindergarten fees which will increase by 7.5% ($215/year/student). High school transit rebates will be reduced (from $185/year to $150/year), so high school students will now pay $392.50/year for transit passes or an increase of 10%. Under this scenario, “$830,000, which equates to approximately nine teaching positions, would need to come from funds that could be used for instructional purposes.”

3. No change from the current 2010-2011 fee structure. “In order to balance the transportation budget, approximately $2.9 million, which equates to approximately 30 teaching positions, would need to come from funds that could be used for instructional purposes.”

“Should the Board of Trustees not approve any of the proposed scenarios for the 2011/2012 Transportation Fee Schedule, administration would need to adjust service levels and transportation routes for the start of the 2011-2012 school year and transportation service might not be fully operational when school begins.”

Seeing as the trustees already rejected scenarios #1 and #3 at the May 17 board meeting, only one alternative scenario has been presented despite the plural wording of the motion.

It is interesting that the shortfalls are all presented in teaching position units. Would we ever see the 2010-2011 CBE budget for legal counsel presented as $3.1 million, or 31 teachers, or more than the entire transportation shortfall under scenario #3 of no fee increases? It will be interesting to see under which future circumstances the administration will present numbers in terms of teaching positions.

Notably absent from the report were alternative transportation arrangements such as those done by the other metro school boards. In a table provided in the report we can see that some boards charge more for schools of choice, others only provide one-way Kindergarten transportation and charge no fee, while others have all Grades 7-9 students taking transit, except in exceptional cases. In Edmonton, a pilot project is underway between the public and separate board to share buses. None of these alternative scenarios have been presented to the public or to trustees, leaving the trustees to choose between increasing fees or more cuts to “funds that could be used for instructional purposes.”

CBE trustees are at the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) Spring general meeting in Red Deer today and tomorrow, and will unavailable to consult with stakeholders before voting at the board meeting tomorrow, but you can still contact them via e-mail.

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