Dragon families can begin purchasing their 2012-2013 school bus passes on August 1 according to information released by Carroll Independent School District this week. Passes for all riders will cost $250 for the 2012-2013 school year or $135 per semester. To help Dragon families, the School Board instituted a $500 family maximum or cap.
Trustees voted for the new bus rider fee in April following several years of discussion and surveying parents about the district’s budget situation. As a result of the $8 million state funding loss experienced by CISD, the Board has been studying ways to reduce the operating deficit in order to balance the budget. Trustees balanced the 2011-2012 budget, but not before making a significant number of Administrative/Departmental cuts and utilizing Build America Bonds to offset the operating deficit. Additional losses expected in 2012-2013 will require reduced expenditures and increased revenues to keep a balanced budget.
In the past, CISD only charged bus riders who lived within two miles of their home campus. The new $250 fee for all riders, however, is a sign of the tough financial times facing many public schools. Every school district in the state suffered losses as part of the $5.1 billion cut overall by the 81st Texas Legislature.
The bus rider fee is just one of a number of options Trustees have had to turn to in order to keep cuts away from the classroom. Officials say the fee won’t cover transportation costs, but it will help offset the expenses while still maintaining the service for students. School officials say it costs nearly $600 to transport one student per year. Still, the $250 fee equates to only $1.41 for Dragon families. That is less, officials say, than it will cost the average CISD family to drive their children to and from school themselves.
Officials say students on free and reduced lunch will qualify for a free bus pass, as well as those students who have special needs and require transportation per an Admission, Review and Dismissal (ARD) Committee. All other riders, however, will have to pay. In August, CISD will also release information on how parents can obtain day passes for special circumstances or individual transportation needs. Emergency ridership due to a family situation or hardship will be handled on a case by case basis by the campus administration.
A “Pay Your Bus Fee” link on the CISD website will become active August 1, allowing Dragon families to purchase their child’s bus pass online. Purchases made online through TicketTracker will include a three percent plus $1 processing fee. School officials say passes will also be sold in person at the Administration Center, 3051 Dove Road, beginning August 1.
Single semester passes will be a different color to help bus drivers identify paid riders. An additional $10 processing fee will be charged for a semester pass, bringing the cost to $135. Passes purchased online will be delivered to a student’s home campus. Passes purchased in person at the Administration Center will be given to the parent immediately.
Individual student bus route information will not be active and available for parent review until after August 13. At that time, parents can visit the CISD website to click on the infofinderi.com link to view 2012-2013 bus numbers and pick-up locations. Passes will be made available to students at the campuses the first week of school. Bus drivers will not begin checking riders for passes until September 4.
Carroll ISD spends about $2 million a year on school bus transportation for nearly 4,600 students. The district receives no state funding to support bus service, and there is no requirement for a public school district to provide busing for all students. However, in two separate surveys, local parents overwhelmingly supported charging a bus fee for all riders rather than eliminating bus service altogether.
No decision has been made yet on Phase 2 of the bus fee plan, which could mean an additional $250 per rider for a total of $500 in 2013-2014 and beyond. The School Board and Administration’s ongoing work to balance the budget is detailed on a special website for parents and taxpayers: www.CarrollBudget.com