Transporting students to local schools is expected to rise sharply with the new carbon tax implemented Jan. 1 in Alberta.
High Prairie School Division fears the tax on fuels could hugely increase costs to operate its fleet of about 80 school buses with Northland School Division.
“Over the next two years, that will be a $60,000 hit for natural gas and $36,000 for gas, diesel and propane,” says Harry Davis, director of transportation.
HPSD transports about 2,000 students daily to 16 schools in the division.
But the carbon tax will have broader impact on the entire operation of the school division.
“We are predicting the carbon levy will increase our expenses by about $80,000 a year,” says Tammy Henkel, who chairs the board.
That will also include increased costs for fuel to heat the division’s buildings.
However, school divisions have received good news from Education Minister David Eggen. “We have had assurances from the minister of education that school divisions will be compensated for the additional levy,” Henkel says.
“He understands that we cannot cut our footprint as we transport students from where they live and heat the schools that we have.”
She says the division will remain efficient to cut costs.
“We will continue to be diligent in keeping all of our buses and our buildings in the best condition to prevent excessive use of fuel consumption,” Henkel says.
While the board adjusted the budget to reflect the carbon tax, costs for special bus trips will cost more for users.
“However, there are some expenses like those for student transportation to field trips and to sporting competitions and tournaments that will be passed down to the students and their parents,” Henkel says.
But the costs are far-reaching.
“It will have a ripple effect, and we’ll have increases in the cost of freight and parts,” Davis says.
He says a study on the effects of the tax by school divisions across Alberta found the costs will be significant.
“We’ve got a whole lot of additional costs,” Davis says.
Already the division is taking some steps to protect the environment by reducing time for idling buses, he says.
“We want to ensure our routes are operating efficiently, yet provide students with rides that aren’t too long and eliminating any waste,” Davis says.
Created to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, the carbon tax in Alberta’s Climate Change Plan started Jan. 1, and adds a levy to heating and transportation fuels such as diesel, gasoline, natural gas and propane, states information from the government website.
Fuel prices rose with the carbon levy set for gasoline at 4.49 cents per litre, diesel at 5.35 cents per litre, propane at 3.08 cents per litre with natural gas at $1.011 per gigajoule.
Next year, the levy increases, with gasoline at 6.73 cents, diesel at 8.03 cents, propane at 4.62 cents and natural gas at $1.517 a gigajoule.