School bus changes, higher fees possible in CBE budget

Calgary parents could see changes to how their child gets to school once the Calgary Board of Education presents its 2014-2015 budget.

Calgary Board of Education seeking to make up for $7M shortfall in upcoming budget

Brad Grundy, chief financial officer at the Calgary Board of Education, speaks to reporters about student fees at a briefing on Thursday. (CBC)

Calgary parents could see changes to how their child gets to school once the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) presents its 2014-2015 budget.

In a media briefing held Thursday afternoon, the CBE said it is facing a $7-million shortfall and needs to look at ways to manage transportation costs and find efficiencies.

It's not yet clear what form those efficiencies could take, but officials say increased fees and changes to transportation services are being considered.

"There will be some fee-related issues in the upcoming budget," said Brad Grundy, chief financial officer of the Calgary Board of Education.

"We do the best we can with the dollars that we're given and we need to look at the fee side of the equation but also the cost side, so congregated [bus] stops are one option to help manage the costs, fees can go up or down as necessary to help balance that off."

Last year, CBE budget officers predicted the negative impact caused by the provincial budget would be felt by CBE students and parents beyond the 2013-2014 school year.

Grundy says budget officers did flag the school board on April 1 to its assumption that — subject to board approval — the CBE would no longer subsidize fees from its core instructional budget.

That means it has to make up the money elsewhere.

Supervision, bus fees under evaluation

School board officials say they will be focusing on several fee-paying areas as they look to recoup some of the budget shortfall, including noon supervision and transportation.

Noon supervision is a service provided to parents of students from kindergarten to Grade 6 who stay at school through the lunch break.

Grundy says the upcoming school year will be the first time bussed students will have to pay the full noon supervision fee.

Parents of students who take the bus currently pay a portion of the full fees, which can cost up to $220 for a five-day program.

As well, Grundy says transportation services will be evaluated. 

He says the focus will be on making transportation costs more efficient by evaluation walk zones, service areas and route planning. 

More congregated and community bus stops could also be a possibility to try and minimize costs.

"Fees are a reality, whether you want to call that a fortunate or unfortunate reality," said Grundy. "Our current reality is that we have a lot of schools that are at or over capacity so that means we have to put kids on a bus to move them to where we have space. The funding model doesn't reflect that so we have to make some choices."

The budget will be presented to the school board on May 6. Trustees will vote on it May 20.


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