A bus trip to school and back in Paso Robles will cost $1 a day beginning in the fall.
The decision to charge parents for transportation to public schools was made at the same time the Paso Robles school board announced it would lay off 38 support staff.
Responding to cuts in state funding, the board also decided earlier this week not to fill two vacant classified positions while limiting the hours for six classified employees. Those cuts follow the elimination of 24 teaching positions.
The district has endured numerous cuts to make up for a $2.2 million shortfall. And more cuts could be needed, depending on what the state finances look like.
“There are still unknowns in regard to the budget,” said school board President Jay Packer. “The Golden State is more copper right now than golden.”
Last year, the district debated the transportation department’s $123,000 shortfall and considered eliminating five of the district’s 11 bus routes. That discussion was put off, however, when the Federal Jobs Bill provided one-time funds that paid for transportation and other services.
Without the federal funds, the transportation department once again has to make up for a loss of more than $123,000.
When the discussion to eliminate routes surfaced again, the district received input from parents who were concerned that young children might have to walk long distances to school. So a pay-to-ride proposal was considered.
Noting that school transportation is not required by state or federal law, the district said it can charge for busing since transportation is not a right. Plus, the district estimated, if parents had to drive their children to school, it would cost about $4 a day.
To gauge parent opinion, the district mailed out 1,300 surveys. From those, some 12 percent were returned with 75 percent in favor of a pay-to-ride approach.
“So it had community support,” Packer said.
While parents with one child will pay $1 a day, there will be a sliding scale for those with more than one child.
“We’re trying to minimize the blow economically to families of multiple students,” said Ashley Lightfoot, facilities director for the district, who said the exact scale is still being determined.
The original plan called for busing to cost 88 cents a day, but the $1 rate allows students currently in the free- and reduced-lunch program to ride for free.
Students in the Lucia Mar school district pay for bus rides, Packer said. Bus fees will be paid by semester, and students will wear plastic cards to show their bus fare has been paid.