School District 72 to apply for transportation funding

The provincial government has made $316,000 available for the school district to improve the transportation of students, but it hasn’t given them very long to figure out how they’ll use that money so they can actually receive it.

The government’s $14 million Student Transportation Fund, “to make transportation more affordable and accessible for B.C. families,” was announced Aug. 10.

“The purpose of the fund was to eliminate bus fees, but since we don’t have bus fees, they have provided the opportunity for our district to use our share to enhance transportation services or safety for our students,” SD72 secretary-treasurer Kevin Patrick told the board of education Tuesday.

The government has allotted the district $316,860 of the $14.7 million fund, but has said they need to specify exactly how it will be used and apply for that funding before the end of September. Patrick made it clear that this funding will not be a one-time lump sum, but rather ongoing funding to support transportation within the district.

“It’s not likely to increase, but they do commit to an ongoing fund,” Patrick said, adding that while the money from this funding needs to be used exclusively for transportation, they can find current expenses within the transportation budget for this funding to replace, freeing up the money that has been budgeted for those expenses to be used on other things.

“Our ideas have been focused on new initiatives, but in the press release – which is an official government document – it does say that we can fund existing transportation services and investing the savings in enhanced student learning, and that would indicate to me that we could use some of that funding to pay for existing services, allowing for the funds saved to be used elsewhere.”

Patrick said staff will consider the options and prepare the district’s application by the end of the month so they will qualify for the funding and report back to the board once the ministry has assessed the application.