The Calgary Board of Education says because of low ridership and the decreased cost to operate yellow school buses this year, it has a $9 million surplus in its transportation budget and will be refunding registered riders.
The school board said the change is the result of a number of different factors including families choosing different transportation options because of the pandemic, students moving to Hub online learning and reduced overall enrolment at the CBE.
“This lower ridership has resulted in a decrease in the overall cost to operate yellow school buses. As a result, the CBE has an approximately $9 million surplus in the transportation budget this year,” said the board.
“The decision has been made to provide a full refund of transportation fees paid to all yellow school bus riders who were registered as of Feb. 28, 2021.”
The CBE said refunds will be provided in the original form of payment, and will either show up online starting in May or be mailed starting in late June.
A parent of two CBE yellow bus riders, Lucyna Pielak said the refund is a positive, but doesn’t fix the long-term issues parents have with transportation fees.
“I’m glad that they recognize that they have the ability to do that and are going to do that. It does create a bit of confidence that they are managing our money better, considering how much they are taking from us,” she said.
“Where I’ve always had issues is that I don’t think it’s fair for people who are taking a language program, especially French — which is one of our official languages — to be paying extra.”
Superintendent of facilities Dany Breton said even after giving full refunds (for costs incurred since September), the board anticipates having a $3 million surplus.
“We would be looking as part of our budget planning for the 21-22 school year at applying that toward reducing bus fees,” he said.
Breton said under the law the CBE must use that surplus in the next two school years, but the board has not yet made the decision about if it will be used in its entirety next year, or spread out over two.
The CBE said there are no changes to noon supervision and other school fees, and families are still responsible to pay any outstanding balances.