Lo­cal school boards fear ris­ing stu­dent trans­porta­tion costs

Seaway News - - SOUTH STORMONT NEWS - NICK SEE­BRUCH ni­cholas.see­[email protected]

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.

Go to www.corn­wallsea­waynews.com for the rest of this great story PLUS ad­di­tional SN cov­er­age.

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