Bus-related ideas for school shortfalls

To the editor:

The report, “Tupper town board votes against school Gap Elimination Adjustment,” lays out the fiscal challenges facing many of our school districts, the state and taxpayers today: providing a quality education for our children in the midst of increasing costs and decreasing funding.

Many schools have already been cutting teachers, classroom resources and reducing or eliminating after-school programs, all in an effort to reduce spending and meet the state’s 2 percent property tax cap.

The good news is there are still some options left for school districts to reduce spending and put money back where it belongs – in our classrooms.

One simple solution, supported by the New York School Bus Contractors Association (www.nysbca.com), will help save school districts throughout the state more than $14 million per year.

Right now, the state and school districts pay state and local sales tax on the purchase of school buses as part of their transportation contracts. School districts that use private school bus contractors currently pay, as a portion of their transportation contracts, the costs associated with the sales tax. It’s time to exempt school buses from this tax.

The legislature and governor exempted private coach buses from the sales tax in the ’90s because of the benefits of riding a bus. Transit buses, commercial airplanes, ferry boats, fishing vessels, tractors, semi-trailers and even race horses have also been excluded from this tax.

Exempting school buses, along with the fuel used to transport our students, is simply the right thing to do.

Another option is for school districts to make the switch to private school bus operators instead of continuing to provide their own transportation. By utilizing private bus operators, school districts across the state have been able to reduce their transportation costs by an average of 20 percent without any compromise in quality or safety.

One example is the Manhasset School District on Long Island, which made the switch in 2005. The district is now saving more than $1 million a year in transportation costs. Yet many other school districts, Tupper Lake included, continue to provide their own busing at a greater expense.

These measures bring fiscal relief to our schools, the state and taxpayers while still providing New Yorkers with the safest and most reliable pupil transportation services in the country.

Robert C. Pape

President, NYSBCA

Port Washington