Rural families in School District 60 will have to pony up $100 for school bus service come September.
The School District 60 board voted to bring in a “registration fee” for the 2015-2016 school year to offset declining funding from the province.
The fee will be per family. It will only be applied to families who actually use the bus to get from rural locations to their schools, and will not be applied to urban students.
According to Doug Boyd, the Secretary-Treasurer for School District 60, the school district is already $200,000 “in the red” for school bus transportation.
In 2012 the province changed the funding formula for busing, resulting in less money for school boards across B.C.
The changes have already meant $541,000 fewer dollars for School District 60 for the service.
The new registration fee is not expected to make up the entirety of the school’s transportation budget shortfall. School District 60 will make up the difference from other operational budgets and reserves.
The move is not one that SD 60 chair Jaret Thompson wanted to take.
“We do not believe in charging for bussing,” he said.
Boyd said the board would continue to lobby the provincial government to change the funding they give out so that rural students would not have to pay for school bussing.
Boyd said that the new fee was meant to ease parents into potentially larger fees in case the provincial government decides not to change their funding formula.
In 2014, the school board had asked for rural students families to pay up to $500 for school bus funding based on how many children they had, according to Boyd.
Some parents had actually given this money to the school district. But the districts of Hudson’s Hope and Taylor, along with the Peace River Regional District, agreed to provide funding for one year to School District 60, and this allowed SD 60 to reverse course on the implementation of those fees and refund the parents who had paid out.
Earlier in the school year, the province provided four new school buses for School District 60 under a different type of funding.
“They’re funding buses, but they’re won’t fund the operation of the buses,” said Thompson. “It’s very peculiar.”