Parents putting aside money for next year's school clothes and supplies will need to budget for new busing fees approved this week.


At Monday night's meeting of the Hesperia Unified school board, the board approved the fees by a 4-1 vote, with board member Eric Swanson dissenting.


The fees were part of a package of changes intended to help the district trim transportation expenses.


"I need to look at it from a large perspective, the entire district," Superintendent Mark McKinney said on Wednesday. "Can I run my buses more efficiently than I am now?"


The HUSD, the Victor Valley's largest school district, currently spends $5.7 million a year on busing, with the state contributing $1.9 million for that purpose. According to school board president Chris Bentley, 26 percent of Hesperia Unified's 21,456 students (as of March 28) ride the bus.


Part of the increased efficiency will come through requiring bus passes for all riders when the new school year begins in August.


"Starting up in the near term are bus passes for elementary students, because we already have them for secondary students," said McKinney. "I now have a greater control over the ridership because those getting on the bus will truly qualify based on their distance [from school]. That allows us to be more effective on our fill rates and how many buses we really use."


The district used an example of $350 per year at Monday's meeting, but the actual fees are anyone's guess at this point.


"I cannot tell you the dollar figures right now. It was just an example, nothing more than that," said McKinney. The district will be hiring a consultant to help lay out more efficient bus routes and set fees. "The determination of how much will come at a later date."


At Monday's meeting, officials suggested that students whose families are eligible for free or reduced lunches might not be required to pay the full busing fee. Sixty-nine percent of HUSD students are eligible for free or reduced lunches.


Snowline Joint Unified School District began charging for busing in fall 2010 and generated nearly $200,000 in revenue in the first semester. The district also saw its ridership drop by half.


Snowline parents have to pay $350 for one year of transportation for one child, with a sliding fee schedule offering slightly reduced fees for families with two or more children.


At least 14 public districts statewide are charging for home-to-school busing, including Riverside, Chino Valley, Yucaipa, Redlands, Hemet and Lake Elsinore. Snowline's rates fall roughly in the middle of the 14 districts, with Rim of the World charging $180 annually for one child and Temecula Valley charging $520.


District staff had also recommended that the board approve boundary changes for each school's student body, but the board voted to hold off on those changes until the 2012-2013 school year.


The next regular meeting of the HUSD school board will be held on May 2 at 6 p.m. in the HUSD Educational Support Center Annex, 15576 Main Street.


Staff Writer Natasha Lindstrom contributed to this report.


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 760-956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star.