What was once a solid transportation reserve has now been completely drained by the Rocky View School Division (RVS) in order to compile with an order by the Alberta Education minister.
During an Aug. 24 special meeting, the RVS board of trustees agreed to cap the 2017-18 transportation fees at $280 per student and $560 per family, as dictated by Alberta Education minister David Eggen. While it's welcomed news for parents, it means the division will face a $800,000 deficit in delivering the service. All but $67,454 can be covered by the division's transportation reserve and the balance will come from general operating reserves.
Associate Superintendent Darrell Couture said RVS will need to address the issue of the empty reserve over the next few months and that may mean changing the level of service for the 2018-19 school year.
The four trustees present voted unanimously to only raise bus fees to $280, believing they had no choice.
Board Chair and Ward 5 Trustee Colleen Munro was especially frustrated by the Minister's decision, expressing her opinion that the power of trustees to make decisions for their communities has been slowly stripped away by both the current and previous government
In May, the board raised transportation fees to $325 per student and a maximum of $650 per family. The increase was deemed necessary to offset potential deficits brought about by both Bill 1, which will not allow school boards to charge transportation fees for students that live more than 2.4 kilometers away from their designated school, and a lack of transportation funding over the last 10 years compared to increasing costs.
However the province vetoed the idea and instead imposed the lower cap on Aug. 11.
Fees will be waived for families with financial needs.
Those who have already paid the $325 fee will be refunded the difference in October.
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