Parents upset about the changes to busing this school year: You have been heard.

This year, the Hesperia Unified School District pushed back the minimum distance middle school and high school students have to live in order to ride the bus by half a mile, to 2.5 miles for middle school students and 3.5 miles for high school students, all in the name of saving the HUSD money.

Parents have responded, loudly, and the HUSD is pushing back Monday's planned school board meeting to allow them time to revise the policy and prepare it for a vote by the school board.

"This is a significant issue that we're dealing with, and I want to be sensitive to the needs of the community," Superintendent Mark McKinney said Wednesday. "I have to be sensitive to being fiscally solvent, and how do I balance all of those issues?"

The state of California is facing an estimated $17 billion shortfall -- the budget will likely not be finalized until this fall -- and legislators are considering cutting back on the amount of money the state provides to public school districts based on average daily attendance (ADA) in district schools.

The state's ADA payments make up 73 percent of the HUSD's general operation fund -- as opposed to funds that can only be spent on expenses like facilities. The 7 percent cut discussed in Sacramento would mean a $5.5 million budget shortfall in Fiscal Year 2008-2009. Salaries and benefits make up 76 percent of the HUSD's budget.

"We can still meet all those needs and ... still see some savings as we deal with the state fiscal issues," McKinney said.

The solution, he thinks, may come in the part of the busing changes he expect the district will roll back: The new bus pass system.

"We were allowing folks to just ride the bus. You showed up, you ride the bus ... even if you might not have qualified for bus transportation," he said. "I could have 30 or 60 kids riding the bus who didn't qualify, and now I need more buses."

By enforcing bus passes, McKinney says the district will still save some of the $800,000 the half mile busing boundary changes were expected to save the district.

And to head off similar situations in future, the superintendent will also suggest the board implement a parent advisory group.

"School sites have parent groups that do great things for local schools," McKinney said. "The real purpose of this parent group is dealing with the bigger picture."

The next meeting of the Hesperia Unified School District school board will be held on August 25 at 6 p.m. in the Hesperia Administration and Educational Support Center, 15576 Main Street.

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.