How the state and school district budgets affect SEPTA

It’s no secret that the Philadelphia School District is going through some rough times.  But how do the recent (and ongoing) budget cuts affect SEPTA you might be wondering?

We’ve recently come across two stories.

First, Newsworks.com reported that some schools might cut back on buses and provide students with Transpasses instead.  This would increase the number of students riding SEPTA.  Why?

“I understand this is not ideal, but this is the current option that the district is able to offer,” Jennie Wu with the District’s Office of Transportation said during a District-led meeting.

Wu explained that the state completely reimburses the District for TransPasses. The District is only partially reimbursed, 50 percent on average, for its bus service, she said.

Second, The Philadelphia Public School Notebook reported last month that many teachers and staff would no longer be offered TransitCheks.

I contacted Paul Billbrough at the employee benefits office to inquire if the District considered other alternatives to maintain the TransitChek benefit. He indicated that staffing reductions made it difficult to continue the program for teachers. However, he noted that employees at the District headquarters would maintain their benefits through a separate transit check debit card program.

When I asked why the TransitChek debit card could not be provided for teachers, Billbrough indicated that the benefit was provided to teachers as part of their Philadelphia Federation of Teachers contract, which does not govern benefits for central administration staff.

Grim news for students and SEPTA riders.

And in a move related to the School District’s budget woes, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown introduced Bill Number 120055 that would authorize and regulate the placement of advertising on school buses owned or controlled by the School District of Philadelphia.  Soon, SEPTA’s buses might not be the only bus advertisement opportunity in town.

Meanwhile, Paul Nussbaum at the Inquirer reports that the Governor has proposed funding SEPTA at the same level this fiscal year as last year.  So those long-postponed capital improvements like the City Hall rehab?  Don’t hold your breath.

(image credit.)