Diane S.W. Lee
Beginning the 2012-13 school year, the majority of Carroll Independent School District students who plan to ride the bus will start paying an annual $250 fee with a family cap of $500.
The school board of trustees on Monday night voted 6-0 to approve charging every student, except special education students, a pay-to-ride school bus fee beginning Aug. 27. Trustees also approved reducing six school bus driver positions in an effort to save the district a projected $84,000 for the coming year.
Trustees' action on Monday night is a move to offset a portion of the school district's overall $2.1 million transportation cost. In the past months, trustees have considered a number of options from their framework plan to help balance the school district's projected $5 million budget gap left by Texas Legislature funding cuts.
Students who live within 2 miles of campuses already pay an annual fee of $215 to ride the school bus. There are currently 4,261 registered riders in the school district, according to Carroll ISD data. The school district receives about $235,000 annually under the program.
Derek Citty, assistant superintendent for administration services, asked the school board to consider four scenarios of fee options and their impact to potential drop in ridership. The $250 student annual ridership fee was the cheapest option of the four.
Under the $250 plan, assuming ridership remained the same, the school district would generate an estimated $691,000.
However, Citty told trustees he does not have a firm feeling on what will occur when the bus ridership fee is implemented.
“It could be pretty catastrophic or our folks could surprise us and pony up and pay the fee and move on,” he said.
Board vice president Sue Armstrong said trustees are looking for a way to offset transportation costs.
“This is a service we provide,” she said. “We have the ability to charge everyone for bus service so that we save all the cuts from the classroom. It is something that we need to do ... and hopefully, we will see savings and we won't see a huge drop in ridership.”
Board president Read Ballew said the move is a necessary step.
“We do not receive any stipend from the state, so unfortunately, we don't have any funds from the state to provide buses for our students,” he said.
Trustees also approved reducing six school bus driver positions for the upcoming school year to save a projected $84,000. The drivers who will be affected are the six who were most recently hired.
Trustees also considered a possible two-cent tax-ratification election to help the school district generate more than $1 million annually. However, trustees did not make any decisions on a date for a potential election.
Trustee Fred Stovall was absent from the meeting.