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Pandemic impacting Chinook's Edge school bus budget

Grant reductions having impact
MVT CESD school bus
The transportation deficit in Chinook's Edge School Division's budget remains, despite recently implemented new fees. File photo/MVP Staff

INNISFAIL – The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has had a marked impact on the Chinook’s Edge School Division (CESD) transportation budget, officials said.

The estimated transportation budget shortfall for the 2020-2021 school year is $468,784, which includes the purchase of seven new buses, according to the quarterly transportation report presented to trustees at the recent board meeting.

The report indicates that the transportation deficit in the division remains, despite recently implemented new fees.

Several COVID-19 related things have impacted the transportation budget, including a reduction in grant amounts of about $760,000 due to government funding changes resulting from the pandemic, and $44,664 in fees for urban transportation being refunded due to disruptions last spring, said superintendent Kurt Sacher.

“Multiple unanticipated costs implications are due to COVID-19, which central office is tracking separately to clearly delineate the impact,” Sacher said in a release.

Savings totalling $340,000 have also been realized as a result of the pandemic, including a reduction in bus parts totaling $120,000 and a reduction in diesel costs.

“As well, the budget includes the impact of an improvement in fuel efficiency as a result of the recent purchase of seven new buses,” he said. “Contactor costs were about $390,000 less than forecast and drivers’ wages also declined, by $495,000, due to layoffs during last spring’s school disruption.”

The report also highlighted ride time and capacity on 115 routes, down eight from the last school year due to reduced ridership. All routes have been evaluated for efficiencies, trustees heard.

Meanwhile, CESD officials will be investigating the status of school zone signage in the division in an effort to ensure that safety measures are in place in every school community.

“Management of school zones fall under both municipal and provincial responsibility, depending on the type of roadway involved,” he said.

The investigation will include the time each school zone is in effect.