Dallastown: Finances behind day care bus fee
- Dallastown recently notified local day care centers that it would no longer provide free busing.
- The centers will pay a $2 fee per child per day if they want to continue busing the children there.
- Troy Fisher said that logistics are still in the works for the plan, which will start Jan. 1, 2017.
Dallastown Area School District administrators have pointed to finances as the reason for the end of free transportation of students to and from day care centers. In a letter sent to day care providers last week, the district stated it would charge a fee for these students, a cost providers have said will be passed on to parents.
The letter, sent by Troy Fisher, Dallastown school's director of employee relations and administrative services, explained that day care providers would need to pay a $2 fee per child, per day, for any student bused to or from their centers beginning Jan. 1, 2017. Parents and day care providers voiced their concern about how that would affect the cost of child care and how the change would be implemented.
Fisher said the fee is being implemented because the district is "facing a number of financial challenges over the next several years" related to keeping a balanced budget in the face of rising Public Schools Employees' Retirement System costs and other financial increases that the district can't control.
At the Aug. 11 school board meeting, parents such as Melissa Rangel, who has a 6-year-old daughter who attends End of the Rainbow Day Care, said they were unsure of how this fee, or removing busing entirely for those day care centers that do not pay the fee, would save the school district any time or money.
"They'll still make 20 other stops for other children," Rangel said.
Fisher said even if the buses make more stops for students who are going home rather than a single stop for several students going to a day care, the cost associated with busing them to the day care is high. He also said the routing of students who might come in on one bus from home but leave on a different bus to go to day care is taxing and time-consuming.
"What people don't understand is if we didn't do any day care transportation at all, we could eliminate maybe one or two buses in the fleet, and each bus is anywhere between $45,00 and $50,000," Fisher said. The idea is "not to eliminate the the transportation but continue the transportation (and) control the cost in the process."
Parents at the meeting also were upset that the letter — which was sent Aug. 3 and requested a response by Aug. 19 whether day cares would pay the fee or end the service — was sent out at the last minute. The letter only notified day care centers and not parents.
Fisher said the reason of the lack of communication was because the school budget was approved in June and discussions continued after that on cost-saving measures. He said "hindsight is 20/20" and that he wished the district could have communicated the information earlier.
"It's a Jan. 1 start, so we were trying to be mindful of schedules," he said. "The letter to the day cares was really to notify them that the change was going to happen Jan. 1 and provide us time to talk on the operational issues."
Fisher said the district is working with day care centers to figure out some of the logistical parts of the plan, such as how the day cares would keep track of the students who would require the fee and what would occur with those day cares that chose not to pay the fee.
"We all understand the economic challenges," Fisher said. "We're trying to be sensitive to our taxpayers and our parents and children but also trying to manage the challenges that we have in front of us, and these are very difficult decisions to make. It is a difficult situation."