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Increase in public school bus fares OK'd


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POSTED: Saturday, November 21, 2009

The state Board of Education is raising school bus fares starting Jan. 1, with one-way prices more than doubling.

In an 8-2 vote Thursday night, the board agreed to raise one-way fares to 75 cents from 35 cents; quarterly passes to $60, up 90 percent from $31.50; and annual passes to $225, 88 percent higher than the current $119.60.

In September the board's Committee on Administrative Services deadlocked with a 4-4 vote, effectively killing the bus fare increase. However, the measure came up again last week, and the same committee passed the proposal to the full board.

It is the first time the one-way fair has been increased since January 2004.

Board members John Penebacker and Karen Knudsen voted against the increase Thursday.

The Department of Education, like all state agencies, is dealing with the massive state budget crunch that has led to the Furlough Friday closures of schools for 34 days over two academic school years.

The board estimates that if ridership decreases 5 percent after the increase, the department will still raise about $3 million. The schools' transportation budget is being cut 5 percent, according to the board.

The board also noted that the increased fares are still cheaper than student fares for the city bus.

Statewide an estimated 35,000 to 40,000 students from kindergarten to 12th grade ride school buses. The Department of Education — and essentially Hawaii taxpayers — are subsidizing $72 million in transportation costs for public school students.

Board officials said students eligible for free meals will continue to receive free bus passes.