Wake County Slashing Bus Routes To Deal With Cuts From The General Assembly

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The News and Observer reports on dramatic changes to the school bus routes for Wake County Schools as they try to cope with another round of school transportation cuts from politicians in Raleigh. This year the General Assembly cut $4.6 million from school transportation budget and that was after cuts in 2013 and 2011, which has left local school districts struggling to make ends meet. From their article,

The resulting redrawing of routes led to Wake dropping 116 bus routes and 4,000 bus stops. It still leaves 2,136 routes and 21,092 stops.

Neter said each stop eliminated could cut two to three minutes off a bus ride. He said they’ll know how much ride times have been reduced after the traditional-calendar schools open.

“By eliminating the frequency of stops, you’re shaving several minutes off,” he said. “When you look at it across the district, that’s huge.”

Wake school officials say examples of changes include the consolidation of stops within subdivisions. The change, according to the district, means students may now have longer walks to their bus stops. Wake allows bus stops to be as far as three-tenths of a mile from an elementary school child’s home and a half-mile for middle school and high school students.

Wake put the changes in motion before the new state budget cut the district’s transportation funding by $520,000, which Neter says is the equivalent of taking 20 bus drivers off the road. School officials say the state cut makes what they’re doing even more critical.

This year’s $4.6 million statewide cut in school transportation funding is the latest reduction in the past three years.

In 2011, the state cut $10 million for transportation funding and underfunded school bus fuel costs by the equivalent of $17.8 million, according to Graham.

In 2013, the state legislature cut spending for new school buses by $30 million by increasing the point at which buses are replaced from 200,000 miles to 250,000 miles. Graham said that change means 1,200 high-mileage buses, nearly 10 percent of the fleet statewide, are still in service instead of being replaced. He said many of the buses are out of warranty, meaning the districts have to foot repair bills out of their own pockets.

All told, the state kicks in about $400 million a year to school districts to provide bus service to 800,000 students on 13,000 buses, Graham said.

For now, Wake school leaders are urging families to show patience with buses during the start of the new school year.

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