High school district student bus fees raised to $600

The San Dieguito Union High School District will increase its bus fees by $100 for the next school year, making the annual transportation pass $600 per student after a unanimous vote at the board’s May 20 meeting.

Trustees also voted to lay off 24 classified employees and reduce the hours of seven others, saying they were doing so with “heavy hearts.”

Superintendent Ken Noah said that the change in bus fees is necessary to cut costs and had been reviewed extensively by district staff. He noted that recently Poway Unified School District upped its bus fees to $575 and said he wished he could propose San Dieguito’s be $574 a year so that they wouldn’t be the most expensive transportation service in the county.

Home to School (HTS) transportation has historically been funded by state categorical grants, parents’ paying for a pass and the district’s general fund. This year, the HTS is expected to dip into the general fund by $112,000. This cost will increase to $160,000 in 2010-11 and could increase even more if the service is shifted to a different tier of categorical funds.

The increase in fees will be one way to cut costs, although staff members said they would continue to look for ways to improve efficiency and reduce operational costs.

About 1,200 bus passes were sold for the current school year at a cost of about $2.78 a day. The increase will bring the transportation service to about $3.33 a day. Staff has estimated that using the bus is actually cheaper than transporting a student using a private car — they estimate that a private car, which averages 25 miles per gallon of fuel at a round trip of 10 miles, twice a day costs about $10.10 a day.

Families buying more than one bus pass per school term will receive a 20 percent discount on the second. Free passes are also available for families based on income eligibility.

Layoffs ‘not taken lightly’

The state budget crisis and resulting budget reductions for the district, as well as declining enrollment at some sites, were cited as the cause for the classified layoffs by Terry King, associate superintendent.

“This is something we are never happy to recommend on our part at human resources,” said King. “This is something we don’t take lightly and we make our recommendations very carefully.”

The trustees grimaced as they voted on the motion to approve the elimination of positions.

“This is always the most difficult thing we face as a board,” said trustee Joyce Dalessandro. “We know these are people and it’s tough but we also understand that it needs to be done.”

Solar, tech improvements coming at Canyon Crest

CCA solar plan advances

A consultant has found that there are no negative impacts on the surrounding environment for the plan to install solar panels at Canyon Crest Academy. As a result of the findings and that no comments were received during a review period, the San Dieguito Union High School District Board of Trustees voted May 20 to approve a negative declaration, clearing the environmental document and allowing the project to move forward.

The CCA project will include two carports built in the parking lot to support solar panels and is expected to begin in June.

On May 20, the board also took its first look at a proposal to use Career Technical Education (CTE) grant money to purchase additional computers for the Canyon Crest photo imaging and audio technology programs.

The expenditure is expected to be approved for CCA at the June 3 board meeting.