School district OKs transportation fee

Posted 5/19/10

The Douglas County School District approved a 50 cent transportation fee for daily bus service, a move that is the first of its kind in Colorado. The …

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School district OKs transportation fee


The Douglas County School District approved a 50 cent transportation fee for daily bus service, a move that is the first of its kind in Colorado.

The district board approved the fee in a unanimous vote before a sparse crowd at the May 18 board meeting. The vote came the same evening the district’s finance officer delivered the proposed 2010-11 school budget.

The coming budget cuts include staff reductions and a three-year hiring and wage freeze at the district, said David Hart, chief financial officer.

“We are taking the salary schedule and freezing that,” Hart said. “We will also see a hiring freeze through the school year 2012-2013, regardless of the increase in pupil count.”

District officials earlier this year began looking at increased fees as a way to compensate for anticipated reductions in state-level school funding. With the close of the legislative session, those reductions came through as expected. The district anticipates by the year 2011-12 a decrease in funding from the state of $500 per pupil, Hart said.

The board will continue to look at fees until such time that Douglas County voters reconsider a mill levy to increase school funding, said Clifton Stahl, board director, District C.

“At some point you have to be willing to make choices on what you want to provide and what you’re willing to pay for,” Stahl said. “We have to be able to go to our county for a mill levy that will support this district”

Douglas County voters in 2008 denied the district a budget override and an increase in the school mill levy. The board this summer will decide whether to place a mill levy question on the 2010 ballot, said John Carson, board president, District B. Agencies that rate the districts future bond issuances take into consideration the results of the district elections, Hart said.

“An election decision needs to be made with great care,” Hart said. “Rating agencies understand the importance of community support.”

In the months leading to the decision on the transportation fee, the community was split in its support of the proposal. The night of the final decision, attendance at the meeting was low and few took advantage of the public comment period. Of those, some made it clear the fee would create an additional hardship on family budgets already smarting from the recessionary economy.

Noelle Baldwin has two children who will ride the bus in the coming school year. She and her husband have to use the school’s transportation to get their kids to school and still make it to work on time. By their calculations, the fee will add $1,500 per year to the cost of their kids’ education.

“This is going to hurt what my family can do and the activities my kids can participate in,” Baldwin said. “When I was in school I participated in three sports at a time. At the rate we’re going with the increased fees, I won’t be able to provide my kids with the opportunity to engage in sports. We just want to be able to afford it. This saddens me desperately.”

In addition to the transportation fee, the board increased athletic fees and technology fees for the 2010-11 school year. The school board thanked parents for their support of the district, but left no question relief from the budget cuts is not coming in the near future.

“This picture is not going to get any better any time soon,” Stahl said. “These are necessary steps we have to take.”


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