Menifee Union School District’s cost estimate for school bus services has grown from $1.5 million to $2 million annually. File photo by Shane Kirley

Menifee Union School District’s cost estimate for school bus services has grown from $1.5 million to $2 million annually. File photo by Shane Kirley

MENIFEE, Calif. — A school district here is ending its general-education school bus service to keep budget cuts from impacting the classroom.

The Menifee Union School District stated on its website that the cost estimate for school transportation services grew from $1.5 million to over $2 million annually. The district will still provide transportation for special-needs students with an individualized education program (IEP) that requires transportation and for homeless students, as required by federal law.

The school district estimates that the cuts in service will affect about 1,300 students in the 2017-18 school year.

In addition to the school transportation cost increase that staff members found while preparing the 2017-18 budget, a $2 million cost increase in special education was identified in the current year (2016-17), amounting to a deficit of approximately $2 million annually, according to the district’s website. That brought the ending fund balance down to the state-required 3% reserve in 2018-19.

The board of trustees discussed proposed budget reductions in June and determined that to avoid affecting classroom funding, eliminating regular home-to-school transportation could potentially save the district $700,000 annually. On June 13, the board held a public hearing for the proposed budget, which addressed the transportation service cuts, and on June 27, the board adopted the budget.

The district is sending notifications to the families of students who are impacted by the transportation changes, according to the district’s website.

Dr. Steve Kennedy, the district’s superintendent, told KABC that part of the budgetary problem the district is struggling with stems from a formula from 1964 that determines how much the state pays school districts for bus service. At that time, the district may have only operated one bus, and in the last year, the district has run 14 bus routes, Kennedy added. He also said that the state paid the district over $100,000 for school bus service last year, according to KABC.

Meanwhile, Menifee resident Arthur Ma placed a petition on the website change.org to persuade the board of trustees to restore bus service, The Press-Enterprise reports. As of Thursday, the petition had received more than 1,250 responses. Ma is also organizing a protest rally for the board’s next meeting, which is scheduled for July 25, according to the newspaper.

The school district has posted information on local child development programs and child care centers on its Facebook page to help parents whose children will no longer have access to school bus service.

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