Members of the House Education Committee considered legislation today that would further reduce funds for school buses in the state, even though local school districts have already dealt with significant cuts to school bus budgets during the past several years.
If passed, House Bill 1040 would save the state $19 million in recurring funds over the years, in addition to $6 million in one time expenditures. Promoted for improving school bus efficiency by the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Julia Howard (R-Davie, Forsyth), the legislation would limit the statewide inventory of school buses and their replacement parts and improve the inspection process for school buses.
Rep. Chris Whitmire, (R-Henderson, Polk, Transylvania) expressed reservations about the bill. His mountainous counties wear out school buses fast, and to limit the inventory of spare school buses on hand could affect his school districts’ ability to adequately transport their students.
Eric Eaker, Director of Transportation for Lincoln County Schools, spoke out against the bill, explaining that substantial cuts to school transportation over the past several years combined with escalating costs and Gov. McCrory’s own cuts to transportation contained within his proposed budget will all have a negative impact on their ability to serve students.
Limiting a district’s ability to stockpile replacement parts, explained Eaker, also means that school districts won’t be able to buy parts at bulk prices and put those into inventory. And those parts are in even bigger demand because budget cuts have forced districts to keep school buses in operation longer.
Last year, lawmakers cut the school bus replacement budget by $29.8 million for 2013 and $39.1 million for 2014, and raised the mileage limit on buses from 200,000 miles to 250,000 miles – keeping older buses on the roads.
Committee members will vote on the bill, which also includes cuts to textbook services, at a forthcoming meeting.