City of Lethbridge considers transferring school bus operation to schools

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City of Lethbridge considers transferring school bus operation to schools
Lethbridge is considering one of the suggestions listed in Monday’s Fiscal and Operational Review that would see school bus operations taken over by school divisions. Emily Olsen reports – Nov 21, 2019

The City of Lethbridge is looking at handing off school bus operations to the public and Catholic school divisions.

The suggestion was on a list presented at Monday’s Community Issues Committee meeting in the Fiscal and Operational Review to save the city money.

READ MORE: Lethbridge city council receives update on operational review

City Manager Bramwell Strain says the KPMG report showed Lethbridge as the second-highest tax jurisdiction in Alberta.

“We are also the only jurisdiction in North America that provides that service on behalf of the school boards,” Strain said.

“We do it on a cost-recovery basis. When you’re cost recovering, there’s a lot of hidden costs and different things that can happen. That service grows every year and there’s a lot of legal and liability issues with it. Question is: do we want to remain in that business and is it in everyone’s best interest?”

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One concern heading into that decision is the potential cost to parents.

Local school divisions are not commenting on the proposal ahead of any decisions but in Red Deer, the public district says it runs a hybrid program.

READ MORE: What are the rules and policies for Alberta school bus drivers?

Red Deer public elementary students are served by a charter bus service contracted by the district.

Middle and high school students rely on public transit and their own modes of transportation to get to and from school.

Spokesperson Bruce Buruma says that when it comes to fees, it can all depend on provincial funding and legislation.

“Interestingly, we’ve not been charging fees with the previous government,” Buruma said.

READ MORE: ‘We’re one of the losers’: Alberta rural school division pens letter over UCP education cuts

“They restricted the charging of fees for that. The current government is opening the door for fees.

“Most school jurisdictions are running deficits. Some of the more significant deficits are because the funding that’s traditionally been provided by the government for transportation services has not been adequate.”

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Details on any fiscal ramifications involved in the Lethbridge proposal have been redacted in the public report.

Council will have its first discussion on the operational report at its next meeting Nov. 25.

It is unknown whether school bus operations will be part of that discussion.

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