LODI, CA - School starts July 27 in the Lodi Unified School District and this year students will have to pay $360 a year to ride the school bus.
Faced with a big budget deficit, the district's transportation department was forced to trim $2 million, and along with charging to ride the bus, the district is consolidating bus routes to save on gas and mileage.
"In the rural areas, we used to pick up children at their homes," said transportation director Carlos Garcia. "This year we've created what is called a hub stop which is one mass stop where we would cover and pick up most of the kids."
Dawn Carvalho, who has three children attending Lodi schools, is concerned about coming up with $1,000 by the end of the month to pay for bus service for her children. She's also worried about the hub stops.
"Who's going to be here at 6:15 or 6:30 in the morning to supervise this group of kids that are going to be meeting here in the morning? It's a safety issue," Carvalho said.
She is considering pulling her children from the Lodi schools.
"If I'm going to pay for them to ride the bus, I'm going to choose where they go to school," Carvalho said. She's also thinking that many parents may opt to drive their children to school, increasing traffic and creating problems during peak times.
Garcia says many other districts already charge to ride the school bus. He says Lodi is offering half-year prices, as well as ticket books of one-way tickets. Low income students may also qualify for free passes.
Garcia hopes many of the district's 6,600 riders will pay to ride, but is not sure what will happen if they don't participate.
"If not enough parents sign up for it I really don't know what happens next," he said.
By Jennifer Smith, Jsmith@news10.net