The Whitnall School Board agreed to cap the amount some parents would have to pay for their children to be bused to school at its meeting Monday night, pending a review of legalities.
Wisconsin state statute requires school districts to provide transportation to students who live more than two miles from their school, but does not require districts to bus students who live less than two miles from school.
Whitnall has offered busing for kindergarten through eighth-grade students living nearer to their school, at a cost charged to those families determined by a state issued worksheet. Ridership decreased significantly over the last year, pushing the per pupil cost of offering this service up about 40 percent, according to interim business manager Douglas Johnson.
“The cost jumped considerably,” Johnson said.
Ridership is based on the number of students transported at least once during the previous school year on a bus for the purpose of attending school, excluding those with disability needs for transportation.
Some of the decrease in ridership could be connected to the installation of a bridge with sidewalks crossing Layton Avenue because more children began walking to school, board member Nancy Zaborowski said.
In the 2009-2010 school year, the per pupil cost was $472, based on 1,324 students. Ridership in 2010-2011 dropped to 960 students, which pushed the per pupil cost of transportation to $660.
“We are starting to get phone calls now from parents who are concerned about the cost, as well as the distance their children may have to walk,” Douglas said.
Board members expressed concern about the large increase in cost to families utilizing the service.
“That is just ridiculous,” said board member Bernard Shaw. “A 40 percent increase, in the current economic environment, I think is extremely detrimental to families and needs to be addressed.”
Board members probed the possibility of subsidizing the increase in the cost for those families. Douglas’ expressed concern that the district may be required to charge the cost determined by the state worksheet, but that the board could cap the rate if that was not the case.
The rate would need to be set soon, Douglas said, because letters had already gone out to parents and school would be starting soon.
In the previous year, about 50 families living within two miles of their children’s school paid for busing. Based on that number, the district cost of subsidizing the increase could be less than $10,000.
The board unanimously passed a measure to subsidize the difference, once Douglas confirms the district is not required to charge the actual cost. Parents could be notified of the revised rate as early as this week.
Board passes preliminary budget
The Whitnall School Board for 2011-2012 at its meeting Monday night.
The revenue limit of the budget would be an estimated $22.78 million, a drop of $1.7 million from last year.
In drafting the preliminary budget, the Finance Committee had instructed district administration to shore up a $438,869 budget deficit by increasing revenue by $125,000 and decreasing expenditures by $200,000, which netted a working deficit of $113,869.
The preliminary budget will receive more revisions prior to the district’s annual budget meeting, as the board awaits more information about salary costs from the state and revenue and expenditure invoices from the previous year.
“There’s a lot of uncertainties yet. There’s a lot of clarity that needs to go into these numbers,” said board member T.J. Anderson.