SWLSB asks Quebec for adequate school bus funding to avoid looming deficit

The Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board says that after a long series of negotiations, an agreement was finally reached last Friday with remaining bus carriers that had refused offers made by the Quebec government, although they were accepted by the Fédération des transporteurs par autobus (FTA).

As of Sept. 6, according to the SWLSB, all students will be receiving transportation services. “However, the driver shortage continues to be a reality for all school boards and school service centres,” they added.

In a statement, the SWLSB said “the Government’s offer to put an end to negotiations is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution and, because of the SWLSB’s unique reality, does not suffice, as we will be underfunded in our transportation envelope.

“Unlike other school boards and school service centres, the SWLSB covers an extremely vast territory — 35,000 square kilometres — which makes our bus routes longer and more costly to operate.

“As a consequence, the Québec Government’s contingency funding formula did not meet the expectations of all our carriers,” they added. “This is why it is crucial for the SWLSB to be funded adequately in order to provide transportation services to all our students across our entire territory without ending the year in a deficit.”

Based on their own calculations, the SWLSB said they are looking at a deficit of over a half a million dollars annually for the next six years, for a total deficit of close to $4 million.

“This situation puts our school board in a difficult position,” said SWLSB chairperson Paolo Galati. “At SWLSB, we manage our budget rigorously and present a balanced budget each year.

“The Québec Government must provide us with the adequate transportation funding, as it is responsible for meeting the needs of all students,” Galati continued. “The alternative we face is a budget deficit and financing shortfall which would unfortunately directly impact student services.”

According to the SWLSB, Galati has reached out to Education Minister Jean-François Roberge, “in hopes of resolving this urgent matter as soon as possible.”