A Board of Education committee was briefed Tuesday about various options to address a $16 million shortfall for student bus service for the upcoming 2012-2013 school year.
Assistant Schools Superintendent Randy Moore told members of the Finance and Infrastructure Committee the three main options to address the deficit are: reduce costs, increase revenues or reduce service.
Moore indicated DOE officials were unwilling to raise the $260 fee parents pay every year for school bus service. About 44,000 kids statewide use school buses to get to and from school
"We don't recommend increasing the bus fare," he said. "It's currently pretty much at parity with the city bus youth fare, and unless and until the city bus fare goes up, we think it's appropriate to maintain parity."
The DOE was forced to explore various scenarios on how to tackle the shortfall after state lawmakers set aside $25 million for school transportation costs, or 38 percent less than the $42 million requested.
Currently, it costs about $80,000 a year to operate each of the 513 general education buses statewide. Board of Education members will have to decide if any of the 959 bus routes operated on the Big Island, Kauai, Maui County and Oahu will be consolidated or eliminated.
BOE Chairman Don Horner stated his firm opposition to the cancellation of bus routes that service elementary schools.
"I'm not saying the high school kids aren't critical, but when we prioritize we're not going to be asking our elementary kids to be riding a public bus," he said.
However, BOE member Nancy Budd pointed to the dangers of getting to school on Kauai, where kids of all ages may be forced to cross one of two main highways that circle the island.
"We just really have no safe routes to schools," said Budd. "I think it's going to be important to not just consider elementary schools, but high school students."