The Morning Report
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Budget guru Phil Stover, interim chief special projects officer in San Diego Unified is answering your questions about school budget cuts on our blog. Confused by the cuts or the budget crisis? Have bigger questions about how the budget works? Ask Stover your questions by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or post them here. We’ll be putting up your questions and answers throughout the day. Where necessary, I’ve included some added explanation of my own in italics to help smooth out any eduspeak. Enjoy! — EMILY ALPERT
QUESTIONS from reader RICK: From what you say we have 6300 VEEP kids (students who go to other schools in other neighborhoods through integration busing) using San Diego Unified buses every day.
1. How many other kids in the district (not counting special needs and special events) are riding buses every day?
2. How many buses do we own and what’s our total investment in buses and supplies for the fleet?
3. What’s the annual total transportation budget: buses, depreciation, drivers, dispatchers, maintenance people, parts, fuel, insurance, legacy and rent on the Interstate 805 property?
4. How do you determine total cost divided by the total daily ridership?
5. Why are you planning to only charge $350 per year per kid or 35 percent of actual cost when the shortfall comes at the expense of the other 110,000 kids in the district?
ANSWERS from PHIL STOVER:1. We have approximately 19,000 to 20,000 students riding buses. The vast majority of these students are students who are entitled to go to other schools because their local schools are faltering under No Child Left Behind, magnet schools, VEEP (Voluntary Enrollment Exchange Program) and special education students. We also transport for field trips, sports and educational programs in Old Town and Balboa Park.
2. We own approximately 510 buses that are available for duty. We have a bus fleet maintenance budget (repairs, gas, supplies and techs) of around $5.5 million. We probably spend another $1 million or so on the maintenance of the district white fleet (trucks, vans, maintenance vehicles, etc.).
3. Three years ago the total transportation budget was approximately $50 million. We are projecting a total budget for next year around $41.8 million. As you can see we have significantly lowered our transportation costs over those three years. This is congruent with the fact that we transport 8-10 percent fewer students than three years ago.
4. We can’t really calculate a flat per-student ridership cost in our district by dividing total expenses by number of riders. This is because we do not do home-to-school transportation (where that would be possible). Special education services cost a disproportionate amount of the budget because of special equipment needed, fewer students per bus, longer ride times (to specialty sites), etc. Also VEEP and magnet students vary dramatically in ride times and distances traveled. The fact that we don’t do home to school transportation and have VEEP and magnet transportation all over the district plays havoc with typical school district transportation metrics. Our transportation numbers are highly idiosyncratic.
5. We did a review of six districts in our area that charge for transportation. The average charge was $328 per year. We decided to use that figure as a baseline charge for school board calculation purposes. We understand that charge will not cover the total cost, (again because we don’t do home to school transportation), but we believe it is a fair indicator of what people may be expected to be able to pay.
— PHIL STOVER