ORANGE : Bus Fees May Go Up Over Next Two Years

Because of cuts in state funding, the Orange Unified School District is considering raising its bus fees over the next two years.

The district, which experienced a strike recently in a contract dispute with bus drivers and other non-teaching employees, is proposing to raise fees from $180 to $250 in 1994-95 for the first child bused to school from each household. Busing a second child next year would cost $200, compared to $180 this year. Under current proposals, fees would again rise in 1995-96, to $275 for the first child and $225 for the second child.

About 7,000 students rely on bus transportation to get to the district's 37 schools.

The fee increases would raise an additional $105,000 for the district each year, and officials say that would help offset a $900,000 gap between state reimbursement and the actual cost of transporting students to school by bus.

A transportation survey will soon go out to parents. Among other things, the questionnaire will ask parents how students currently get to school, if parents would consider car-pooling students and what amount parents could pay to bus their children.

"My first reaction when I heard about a proposed increase was 'Here is another tax for the parents,' and I don't find that to be a good option," said school board member Rick Ledesma. "I want to see what else we can do."

The Board of Trustees instructed the staff to present a report on the survey's findings in about a month. The board will probably vote on bus transportation fee increases in June.

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