Local school boards fear rising student transportation costs
CORNWALL and UNITED COUNTIES of SD&G, Ontario - The Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB) has expressed concern over the rising cost of rural busing.
In a joint press release to the media, the UCDSB and their co-terminus English Language Catholic counterpart, the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CDSBEO) state that both school boards saw a deficit in their 2017-2018 budgets as a result of rising rural busing costs.
“The CDSBEO has posted its year-end financial statements that included an overspending in transportation for the fiscal year ending August 31, 2018 amounting to $5.8 million,” the UCDSB press release reads. “Trustees with the UCDSB also received a report about finances for the 2017-2018 budget year, presenting an overspending in transportation of $9.5 million related to unexpected increases in the cost to provide busing for students.”
The UCDSB blames new contracts reached through binding arbitration between bus companies and the consortium that provides bus service to the school boards Student Transportation of Eastern Ontario (STEO).
STEO enacted boundary changes in Sept. 2018 to specifically deal with rising transportation costs. STEO changed the walking distance for students. Grade 7 and 8 students living 2km from their school or less are now not eligible for busing unless there is a courtesy seat available on a bus or if there is a safety issue around them walking to school. The old distance was 1.6km.
“The courtesy process has been refined in the face of rising transportation costs,” said Janet Murray, CAO of STEO in an interview with Seaway News in August. “We know that costs are escalating in the area of transportation… we are always mindful of doing our best to be as efficient as possible while doing our very very best to minimize the impact on students and families,” Murray went on to say.
The local school boards have been left feeling concerned over their need to cope with the rising costs.
“Trustees in the Upper Canada District School Board are quite concerned about the higher unexpected costs of transporting our students to school,” stated Jeff McMillan, Chair of the UCDSB.
Todd Lalonde, Chair of the CDSBEO said that his board is doing all it can to manage these costs.
“Both school boards have taken steps to manage transportation costs this year,”he said.“We are hearing from the public that we have gone as far as we can to cut costs in this area.”
McMillan promised that both boards would present a united front to the Ministry of Education.
“Given these sudden and troubling financial developments, both school boards are working collaboratively in seeking the guidance and support of the Ontario Ministry of Education. These are unexpected circumstances,” said McMillan.“It has never been more important for us to work closely with the Minister of Education, her office, and our local members of provincial parliament, since these costs will impact programs and services offered by both boards of education.”
This news could spell ongoing financial trouble for the UCDSB. In May, the board approved a budget deficit of $1.8 million for 2018-2019.
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