Busing not a big area Re-1 can look for cuts
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – The Roaring Fork School District Re-1 spends nearly $1.5 million of its $43.6 million annual budget transporting students to and from school, athletic and extra-curricular events and field trips.
It’s one area that has been suggested in public comments for cuts, or possibly even elimination, as district officials figure out how to make up a $3 million to $3.5 million budget shortfall for next year.
But making big cuts in transportation as part of the district’s budget reduction plan could cause even bigger headaches in the long run.
School districts are not required to provide transportation for students, said Re-1 assistant superintendent of business services Shannon Pelland. Her comments came at the third in a series of budget planning sessions Wednesday designed to gather public input in the process.
Re-1 buses roughly 1,500 students to and from schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt each day.
“Eliminating it is not really a viable option, primarily because it would cause a huge increase in the number of parents dropping off students at our schools,” she said. “Especially for our elementary schools, that is not something they were designed to handle.”
The district has also considered expanding the bus-riding radius around each school from one mile to two miles. That, too, would likely result in more traffic congestion at schools, Pelland said.
Busing to and from outside events is also a necessary expense, school board members agreed, because of the liability of having students driving themselves, or parents arranging carpools with multiple students.
Some transportation cuts planned
The district plans to trim $80,000 from the transportation budget next year.
Part of that savings will come in eliminating one of the district’s three bus mechanic positions through a pending retirement, Pelland said.
The district may also shorten six or seven rural bus routes in the outlying areas around Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt, she said. That would require parents to bring their kids to the next nearest bus stop on that route.
A fee of $1 per day to ride the bus to and from school was also explored. But that would bring in a limited amount of money, and many parents would likely instead choose to drive their kids to school, Pelland said.
Higher sports fees to offset some costs
“Some transportation costs will be recovered through increased athletic fees,” she said.
The district is proposing to increase student fees for sports participation from $75 to $100 for high school students, and from $30 to $50 for middle school students.
A reduction in the number of sub-varsity athletic contests, and scheduling more games closer to home will also result in savings.
Cutting transportation costs for varsity contests is more difficult, assistant superintendent Brad Ray said, because those schedules are under the control of the Colorado High School Activities Association.
“We did cut costs this year by having more local non-league varsity games,” Ray said. “It’s more difficult when you get into league play, and particularly when you get into playoffs. Those decisions are made in Denver by CHSAA.”
Budget decision coming next week
The bulk of the Re-1 cuts would involve the elimination of up to 30 teaching positions, 14 building custodians, eight district- and school-level instructional support staff, and 41 part-time coaching positions.
The district is also proposing to eliminate funding for the Glenwood boys and girls high school swim team and two middle school wrestling programs, and consolidate several other high school sports programs.
In addition to cuts, the district is also exploring the possibility of asking voters to approve a mill levy override at the November election.
The district’s Interest-Based Bargaining committee, made up of about 30 Re-1 teachers and staff, is meeting today to make its budget recommendations. The school board is expected to make a decision on a budget reduction plan at its April 20 meeting.
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