Albany, NY, March 30, 2020 – The New York State Bus Distributors Association is making a public appeal to Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature imploring them to sufficiently fund New York’s school transportation system. The Association says adequate funding is necessary to make sure the state’s school bus fleets are ready when called upon and to help save the school transportation industry from potential insolvency caused by school closures.
“This is an unprecedented time in our state’s history and our first priority should be the health of our citizens and the eradication of the coronavirus,” said Robert Reichenbach, president of the New York Bus Distributors Association. “However, we cannot forget about other essential services provided by our government. Our school transportation system is vital to the state’s public education system and it must be prioritized as such in the context of state budget negotiations.”
The New York State Bus Distributors Association says that they are seeing member companies laying off hundreds of employees across the state due to school closures and talks of draconian cuts to school districts coming from Albany could mean even more school bus distributor layoffs. Further, if the state budget doesn’t provide for continuous funding for school transportation and a mechanism for school districts to vote on their budgets, it could mean tens of thousands of union and non-union school transportation workers across the state will lose their jobs.
Michael Sweeney, president of the New York Association for Pupil Transportation echoed these concerns as well,“School bus operations in our state must be funded properly in order to provide services when schools reopen. There has been significant disruption in the educational process as a result of the COVID-19 crisis and it is our goal to resume services when called upon by our school districts without hesitation. Proper funding of transportation operations and new school bus acquisition is key to achieving that goal.”
The major problem facing school bus distributors right now is meeting the anticipated transportation needs of our school districts in time for the September start of the new school year while schools wrestle with this unprecedented budget uncertainty. This could severely delay new, safer, more environmentally friendly school buses being placed in service throughout New York State. If school districts can’t meet their obligations because of harsh budget cuts, school bus distributors will be forced to pay millions of dollars in interest costs to hold the buses until the school districts can pay for them. This is an unanticipated expense that is not factored into the cost of the school bus and will essentially bankrupt the industry, force companies to close, and leave school districts without the reliable public-private partnership they have formed with school bus distributors over many decades.
“The entire school transportation system is under a great deal of stress because school districts have rightly been closed due to the threat of the Coronavirus,” said Reichenbach. “But we cannot let the virus destroy our school transportation system, and we must not let it negatively impact the future safety of the 2.3 million children who ride a yellow school bus each day to school.”
Given the essential nature of New York’s school transportation system, and the economic uniqueness of a system that will eventually have to respond immediately to transporting more than 2.3 million students a day, the New York State Bus Distributors Association is asking that the Governor and Legislature do everything within their power to ensure New York’s school transportation system is adequately funded during this crisis. The Association also asks that the state work with school districts to ensure school budget votes go forward in the near future and schools be provided with the guidance and necessary resources and processes to protect citizens from the threat of the Coronavirus.
Media reports indicate that as many as 20 percent of employees across the nation may lose their jobs as a result of the economic impacts related to the Coronavirus and the latest report of 3.2 million unemployment claims certainly reinforces that prediction. Now is the time to sharpen the pencil and find savings in non-essential state programs so that we can responsibly fund those areas of the state budget that are of higher priority.
“The Governor and legislature are demonstrating extraordinary leadership during this time of crisis and we all truly appreciate their service,” said Reichenbach. “We are hopeful they understand the urgency and importance of providing adequate funding for our school districts. It’s critical that school districts have the minimum resources they need to keep children safe by replacing their older school buses and to properly maintain them throughout the year.”
ABOUT NYSBDA: The New York State Bus Distributors Association represents school bus dealers from across New York that sell, service, and help maintain safe, environmentally friendly school buses. The association’s members provide important services and support to nearly every school district in the state helping them save valuable education resources and ensuring their school buses are running efficiently. www.nysbda.com
ABOUT NYAPT: The New York Association for Pupil Transportation comprises members who operate school district transportation departments and are employed in over 600 school districts across the state. Some members are also employed by BOCES, community and technical colleges, private school bus operators, and community-based programs. Our members work in many levels of the school transportation system within New York’s school districts; including supervisors and managers, mechanics, technicians, trainers, safety specialists, and dispatchers.