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Tacoma Public Schools cuts bus routes to save $1M; alters start times next year

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(The Center Square) – Tacoma Public Schools is reducing the number of bus routes next school year in order to save about $1 million in transportation costs.

The school district reduced its bus routes due to a high cost-per-rider ratio. According to a presentation to the school board, Tacoma Public Schools spent nearly $3,078 per rider in the 2021-202 school year, the highest among a cohort of 20 Washington state schools.

Tacoma Public Schools Chief Communications Officer Tanisha Jumper told The Center Square in an email that the district analyzed its transportation system and compared it to other similar districts. Tacoma Public Schools found out it was operating with the least efficiency.

“The other districts with similar transportation numbers were using tiering start times as a way to gain more efficiency in their pick up and drop off,” Jumper said. “By applying those strategies to our system, we are able to reduce the number of routes, gain efficiency in our system and realize a saving of approximately $1 million in the next school year.”

The cut to the district’s bus routes will impact school start times beginning in the 2024-25 school year.

According to the district, high school will now start at 8:05 a.m. and end at 2:35 p.m.; middle school will start at 7:40 a.m. and end at 2:10 p.m.; some elementary schools will start at 8:40 a.m. and some will have a 9 a.m. start time. Each elementary school start time will be determined next month.

The $1 million in savings will help the district as it continues to navigate through budget difficulties. Tacoma Public Schools had to address a budget deficit of approximately $15 million in the current school year and saw cuts to staffing levels.

Combined central and administrative full-time equivalent positions within the school district dropped from 229 at the end of the 2022-2023 school year to about 197 as of April 17. This act, along with cost shifting of Tacoma staff, resulted in reductions of $9.5 million.

As part of the district’s current budget process, the Tacoma Public Schools Board of Directors is working toward rebuilding its fund balance to a 5% reserve requirement.

The budget is expected to be adopted by June 20.

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