Budget blocker: Bus costs slow push for later start times

A later high school start time offers health benefits for Ridgefield students, but the transportation budget might not allow for it.

That was the consensus during the Jan. 9 Board of Education meeting, where educators looked at a possible three-tier bus system to create an 8 a.m. start time at the high school and both middle schools.

“It’s going to be very difficult to make that choice,” said board member Doug Silver about going from four to three bus runs. “Financially, this might still be on the bottom.”

Back in 2009, the district went from a three to four run, which uses fewer buses and saved around $450,000 a year.

Rick Lupinacci, the district’s transportation manager, said switching back would cost $395,000.

Silver said that once something is off the budget, it’s difficult to bring back.

“Look at us five years later, unable to undo the damage,” he said.

Several board members pointed out that some buses currently running are not at their highest capacity and wondered if eliminating buses could help offset the expense of switching tiers.

Lupinacci said that declining enrollment doesn’t affect the number of buses needed.

“Buses go by the required area that needs to be covered,” he said. “You can cut the number of buses, but then you’d extend travel time.”