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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Another blow to the Milwaukee County budget

by folkbum

I do hope you're all reading capper's blog, a much more thorough repository of all things MKE-CTY than you'll find here. But I got wind of a problem today that maybe even he doesn't know about.

You may recall the audit of the Milwaukee Public Schools the other month, which, among its cost-saving suggestions, wondered why MPS got such a small discount from the Milwaukee County Transit System relative to peer districts and transit systems. I have wondered the same thing myself sometimes. High school students who live a particular distance away from their schools are given bus tickets or weekly passes to ride MCTS twixt home and school. That's about to change.

As it turns out, MPS seems to have worked out a better deal with yellow bus companies in the city, according to information sent to schools this week. My source tells me that starting next school year, MPS is diverting $3 million of its transportation budget away from MCTS and into yellow bus service for the vast majority of high school students in the city. Almost all of the district's comprehensive high schools will be MCTS-free for 2009-2010 and beyond.

This was a bit of a double-edged sword for the county, of course. Had it negotiated a better deal, it would see declining revenue, sure. (Unless MPS got such a good deal from the county that it moved more kids to MCTS and away from yellow bus services, that is.) But the county and MCTS has been pretty steadfast in what it charges MPS, and its failure to budge finally broke the camel's back.

$3 million may not seem like a lot, but when the Board and the County Executive talk about a maybe-gonna-happen $5 million payment from UWM as a life-and-death kind of situation, MPS's cut is going to sting pretty bad.

(UPDATE: Thanks to a thoughtful emailer, here's the original JS story that covered the Board decision to make the cut. I remember that story, but I did not remember the busing part.)

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