Hollister school board votes to eliminate bus service

The bus leaves Calaveras school on its way to drop off the

In a 3 to 1 vote, HSD trustees cut home-to -school
At a Hollister School District meeting Tuesday, the school board members voted 3-1 not to go out to bid for home-to-school transportation.

The board will, however, go out to bid for transportation for special education students who have transportation included in an individualized education program, which is mandated by the federal government, and for a migrant summer education program that is funded from a special fund.

Trustees Michal Query, Rebecca Salinas and Dee Brown voted not to continue the transportation for general education students, while Jennifer Baigley was the one dissenting vote. Elsa Rodriguez was not present at the meeting.

“We’ve received information continuously,” Brown said. “We’ve been discussing this for years.”

She said that at past meetings the room was packed with parents speaking out against the cut, but the Tuesday meeting was quiet with just an employee and a board member from the San Benito High School District speaking against the cut.

“What made my mind up is that the total is $313,000 a year and we totally lost that money,” Brown said. “We will not get a penny of that.”

With 320 students using the service, Brown said it amounts to almost $1,000 per student.

“With $313,000, we could open up school libraries and computer labs that serve all,” she said. “If we had the money to spend, I would rather see us spend it on something for all students.”

The vote came a month after Gov. Jerry Brown announced school districts would receive only 50 percent of their transportation budget for 2011-12 school year and that all funding would be eliminated from the 2012-13 school year.

This year, there are 519 students in the district that are eligible for bus service and 332 students who are using it. Elementary school students are eligible for bus service if they live more than one and a half miles from their school. Middle school students are eligible if they live more than two miles from their school. The district can also allow students based on safety conditions that require transportation.

The budget this year for bus service was $312,790 for general education students and $547,666 for students with special needs.

The state was set to provide $327,036 to the district for transportation funding. With the mid-year cut, that has been reduced to $163,969.

“It was a very difficult decision,” Brown said. “I realize for some of the families that depend on busing, this is tough. We’ve cut out everything we can from our budget and when the state cuts us on specific program that’s tough to continue it.”

Brown said that she hoped families would consider carpooling.

“It would be on our restoration list, if and when the state restores the funding,” Brown said. “I hope that all of the registered voters will get behind the governor’s tax proposals that will hopefully restore some funding to schools next year.”

McIntire noted in an interview last week that the Hollister School District is still at an impasse on negotiating a contract with the classified staff.

“We have yet to settle that,” he said. “We are looking at massive kinds of cuts that the governor is proposing if the voters don’t pass the ballot measures.”

The district is expected to show an ability to meet their financial obligations for next year and the two following years, which he said will be increasingly difficult without further cuts.

The Hollister School District has four buses, for which it contracts with Tiffany Transportation Services. The district is on a one-year extension with the company. The school board members voted to go out to bid for special education services, which are federally-mandated for students who have transportation as part of an individual education plan, and the migrant summer transportation program.

The San Benito High School District, which maintains its own transportation services, will continue to offer transportation without state funding, said Debbie Fisher, director of finance and operations.

“We have not allowed the state direction to choose ours,” Fisher said. “We are maintaining our transportation. We are a rural district and we have many students who need that transportation.”

San Benito High School’s state funding for transportation this year is $57,000, with the 50 percent reduction from the state’s trigger cuts, according to Fisher.

Fisher said that though there is a state proposal to cut all funding for transportation, she said that the proposed budget may be changed to take money from another source that would be more equitable to all school districts “instead of more harshly affecting the rural districts.”

The high school’s overall budget for transportation is $400,000 to $500,000, which includes home to school transportation, as well as co-curricular and extra curricular activities as well as outside trips provided to other agencies. The transportation department receives revenues to cover the costs of the latter activities.

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