The Westborough School Committee is considering charging a transportation fee next year to students in grades seven through 12, and to students in Kindergarten to grade six residing less than two miles from school.
The move would help fund next year's school budget while reducing Westborough's share of school officials' request.
"The choice here is either we supply only the busing that we're obligated to supply, or we supply the busing as we do and we charge a fee for it," Vice Chairman Stephen Doret said during Wednesday night's discussion.
The school committee will discuss the topic again next Wednesday night. The board will vote on a budget request Dec. 19, when its 6:30 p.m. budget public hearing is scheduled.
Last week, School Superintendent Marianne O'Connor recommended a $42,799,208 school budget for next year, a 3.67 percent increase. Wednesday night, O'Connor recommended reducing that proposal by about $105,000 by cutting two requested positions: reinstating a full-time reading teacher at the Mill Pond School, and a .5 strings position eyed for reinstatement due to enrollment.
School districts cannot charge a transportation fee to students in Kindergarten to grade six residing more than two miles from school, Chairman Ilyse Levine-Kanji said.
Westborough does not charge for school transportation at all.
Several neighboring communities do, though, according to a survey Tuesday by the school administration.
- Ashland charges $280 per student, with a $560 family cap, to all students living less than two miles from school.
- Grafton charges $200 per student in grades seven to 12, with a $400 family cap, and a payment plan offered. Grafton High School students are charged a $200 parking fee.
- Hopkinton charges $210 per student, with a $420 family cap, and a $50 late fee, and a waiting list for seats, to students in grades seven to 12, and students in Kindergarten to grade six residing less than two miles from school.
- Shrewsbury charges $250 per student, with a $500 family cap, and a $50 late fee per child, with a $100 family cap, to students in grades seven to 12, and students in Kindergarten to grade six residing less than two miles from school.
- The Northborough/Southborough regional schools can't charge for transportation because they receive regional transportation funding. However, high school students pay a $100 parking fee per semester.
Levine-Kanji said she hoped school officials could "explain to people why it's important to pay the fee" rather than drive their children to the schools, which often aren't set up for that.
School board member Nicole Sullivan said Westborough is among the few school districts without a transportation fee.
"I think parents want more. I don't think parents want less. And I think in order to do that, they have to pitch in," she said.
Levine-Kanji said the Westborough public schools spend more than $1 million on special education transportation "about half of our total."
And "special ed students who ride a special ed van cannot be charged a transportation fee because we're legally required to provide transportation," she said.
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