The Carroll School Board took another step in the ongoing efforts to close the gap between state funding shortfalls and daily operating expenses. The Board voted to implement a new bus rider fee for all students except those who are provided free transportation due to special education services agreed upon by the Admission, Review and Dismissal (ARD) committee. Trustees reluctantly approved the fee in the face of a projected $5 million deficit for the 2012-2013 school year. Riders will now have to pay $250 to ride a CISD bus, with a $500 family cap to assist parents with multiple children.
CISD had been charging only those riders who live within two miles of their home campus. This year, those riders paid $215 for bus transportation, which helped generate about $235,000 for the district’s general operating fund. Carroll ISD, however, pays about $1.8 million a year to transport students to and from school. Trustees have been studying options for balancing the budget for the past several years. The new $250 bus fee will take effect with the coming school year and is expected to help generate another $456,000 in revenues.
School Administrators believe the new fee will result in an initial drop in ridership, which will likely mean six less drivers for CISD in the coming school year. This will result in another $84,000 savings for a net impact to the transportation budget of $540,000. Although the new fee will not cover the overall cost of transporting students to and from school, Trustees say they believe it is a necessary step to reducing the overall funding gap. As a Chapter 41 school district, Carroll ISD does not receive any state funding for transportation, yet the district has been paying $1.8 million a year to transport about 2,764 students across all grade levels. New legislation approved by the Texas Legislature now permits school districts who do not receive transportation funding from the state to charge riders for this service.
The Board tasked the Administration with developing a payment process for parents before the next school year. Trustees say they hope parents will still consider bus transportation as the safest, most efficient way to get their kids to and from school. It is not known if ridership will fall due to the newly instituted rider fee. The action was necessary, however, school officials say, to avoid cuts to classroom programs or personnel.
In November 2011, Carroll ISD surveyed parents, employees and taxpayers about various cost-cutting and revenue generating ideas. Support was high, in the survey, for implementing a bus rider fee over other suggested cuts. In addition to the elimination of administrative and support positions, the Board has adopted a staffing plan that includes the elimination of eight teaching positions at 5-12 campuses, reduced departmental and campus supply/travel budgets and an increase in marketing and sponsorship efforts. Other ideas still being discussed include a student participation fee, a possible two-cent tax ratification election and program restructuring.
Trustees have also discussed the possibility of opening CISD borders up to outside students such as those who live in the City of Southlake, but outside Carroll ISD, and the grandchildren of taxpaying CISD residents. The Board took no action on the enrollment issue, but plans to have a standing 2012-2013 budget item on the School Board meeting agendas going forward. The budget will not be adopted until late August.
To learn more about Carroll ISD’s financial situation and the steps Trustees and Administrators are taking to ensure financial accountability and a balanced budget, visit CarrollBudget.com today.