The Transportation Task Force, created by the Clearview School Division has its work cut out for the foreseeable future as gas prices continue to creep up while the provincial grants for the division remains frozen.
The board of trustees of the Clearview division got a clearer picture of the bus services it offers to the students as reported by the task force when they met for their regular meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 16.
Several reports were reviewed in the meeting, but more information is needed before considering any new steps.
“The reports had to do with information like bus times, fueling costs, all that sort of stuff,” explained John Bailey, Clearview superintendent.
“The picture is not yet complete. We anticipate it will take a couple more months.”
But the highlights of the problems that will have to be addressed have already emerged.
“Last year, the government cut a fuel contingency grant that they had been giving. It was approximately a $200,000 hit to Clearview,” said Bailey.
The grant has not been reinstated, even though gas prices have been rising.
The second challenge is declining population, particularly in the rural areas.
“We have to run buses further with less students. That costs more to do,” Bailey added.
“We’re still trying to keep those ride times down as much as we can.”
The last challenge is the maintenance and service costs. The board cannot control the biggest costs, which are fuel, maintenance and parts.
Clearview division currently has 57 routes and they cannot be cut. Buses have to shuttle on those routes on school days.
With regard to the provincial budget, the Clearview board would like to see the final figures before making a comment.
“It’s a mix of grant increase and grants being cut. Overall the picture is that it’s going a very tough year,” said Bailey in reference to the draft budget announced by the provincial government.
Since the grants are dependent on the numbers of students enrolled from kindergarten through grade 9 and the number of courses successfully completed by high school students, Clearview won’t know until Sept. 30 exactly how much funding it will get for its schools.
“Every spring, we prepare a preliminary budget based on our estimates and projections about enrolment and costs,” said Bailey.
“We do the best we can to estimate how many students we’ll have in each school and then we have to make decisions based on that because it carries the majority of our funding.”
The board expects to learn more about how the new budget will affect Clearview by the end of March.