Transportation cost increase leads to student fee hikes in Arlington Heights District 25

  • Difficulty attracting and hiring new school bus drivers has led to a 12% increase in Arlington Heights Elementary District 25's transportation contract, which the district is passing along via a $52 fee increase to families.

    Difficulty attracting and hiring new school bus drivers has led to a 12% increase in Arlington Heights Elementary District 25's transportation contract, which the district is passing along via a $52 fee increase to families. Daily Herald File Photo

 
 
Posted4/26/2022 5:20 AM

A series of student fees are going up next school year in Arlington Heights Elementary District 25 -- chief among them, a $52 increase in the annual bus transportation fee, as the district passes along a 12% cost increase.

The new $488 fee, up from $436, would be paid by families that don't qualify for free transportation, but want to pay for bus service and have an available route going through their neighborhood.

 

The fee increase is tied to a contract extension the school board inked with the bus provider, Arlington Heights-based Cook County School Bus Inc., late last week.

"Not unlike everything else going on in the economy, Cook County (School Bus) has had to increase drivers' rates to attract drivers," said Stacey Mallek, District 25's assistant superintendent of business.

The bus company says it's increased salaries 17% to 19% as part of an aggressive recruitment campaign, though job applications are still not what they were before the pandemic.

Company officials also said their primary lines of insurance rose 8%, while excess liability increased 35%. They've also delayed replacing some buses.

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Mallek said many school districts are seeing similar double-digit increases in their transportation contracts. Some districts have gone out to bid for a new vendor, only to get no bids.

"Companies don't have the staff. They don't have the drivers. So they're not bidding," Mallek told the school board Thursday night. "I don't know that at this point we have alternatives because I can't guarantee if I go out to bid that I'll get any bids."

In addition to the transportation fee, the board approved these other student fees for the 2022-23 school year:

• A 25-cent increase for lunches at elementary schools, to $3.25, amid the increased cost of food and supplies. The district is removing a tiered pricing model at the middle schools -- currently between $3 to $3.65 -- and putting a flat $3.75 cost in place.

• The general student fees, which haven't gone up in more than a decade, will remain the same: $31 for kindergarten, $55 for grades 1-5, $78 for grades 6-8 and a $30 middle school participation fee.

• Fees for other materials, like gym shirts and shorts, and graduation gowns and ribbons, are only estimates, Mallek said, because many vendors aren't giving firm pricing as costs rise quickly. For now, the graduation fee is estimated to go from $30.75 to $33, while gym clothing could increase by about $1.

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