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Charlotte Area News

Transportation Cuts Could Save CMS Up To $18 Million

The CMS board is turning its cost-cutting attention to transportation. Last night, board members heard the district could save up to $18 million by eliminating shuttles to all magnet schools, doing away with bus service for kids who live within 1.5 miles of their school and expanding the bell schedule. But board members didn't appear receptive to many of the ideas. It's a doozy of a list, a sort-of worst case scenario, for just how deep the district could cut shuttle and bus service. At this point they're only options, not district recommendations. CMS estimates it could save between $3 million and $9.5 million depending on whether shuttle stops are eliminated for full magnets, partial magnets or both. Another $5 to $6 million could be cut by doing away with bus service for kids who live within 1.5 miles of their school. And extending the school day and expanding the bell schedule could yield $2 to $3 million in savings. Several board members asked questions, but no one spoke up in support of any of the options. Two board members immediately said it was a bad idea to expand the district's no transportation zone from half a mile to 1.5 miles. Joe White said it wouldn't be worth the savings. "The truth is there are some areas in this community where it isn't safe to walk," says White. State money makes up about 82 percent of the district's transportation budget. But that amount changes each year, according to a formula that factors in how many buses are needed per 100 riders and the average cost to transport a student. The lower those amounts the better. Derek Graham with the state's Department of Public Instruction said some cuts to transportation could actually result in decreased state funding. For example, if the no transportation zone were expanded, the district's average cost to transport a student would go up because students who live close to school are cheap to bus. Several board members, including Trent Merchant, called out the state for relying too much on formulas. He said in the past, parents have been quick to offer solutions. "When it comes to transportation they come up with a lot of really good common sense suggestions and then we have to try to explain a very arcane math equation that was developed in 1990," said Merchant. The board is scheduled to decide on transportation cuts by the end of January in time for parents to make magnet choices knowing what kind of shuttle services will be offered.