Money at root of Wake County bus issues

August 29, 2012 4:00:29 AM PDT
Wake County school leaders are promising to quickly iron out the kinks after major busing problems on the first day of school.

"We're getting about 2,000 calls yesterday and today," said Wake County Schools Superintendent Tony Tata.

One of those calls was from Wake County mother Lisa Alfaro. Her child didn't get home from school until 7:30 p.m. Monday.

"It took the Cary Police Department to figure out that the school had put my son on the wrong bus," Alfaro said. "The kicker is he's got a tag on his book bag that says he's supposed to be on route one."

Alfaro only learned her child was on the wrong bus after his assigned bus was involved in a minor traffic accident in Cary, and her child wasn't on the bus.

More complaints are coming into to school officials this year because there are 48 fewer buses on the road than last year. Tata told ABC11 that because of growth, the school system anticipated needing up to 50 more buses this year.

The school system had the money to keep everything as it was last year, but Tata said if they did, it would cost the system $8 million next year.

"We could have said, no changes, here's $5 million, just do what you've been doing.  At the same time, that's $2 million we would be giving up or $3 million we would be giving up every year at a minimum," Tata said.

Tata said the system is saving money by changing the way bus routes are structured. It has made for a confusing start to the school year, but has saved about $5 million.

He also said the school system lost out on $3 million in state funding this year because they were not packing enough kids into the buses.

Tata conceded they were too ambitious in the number of buses they took off the road, and leaders will be slowly adding more.

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