Bus route bill stuck in state committees

A school bus route proposal that sits in the New York State Assembly and Senate would save the Tuckahoe School District more than $100,000 annually. Contributed photo

A school bus route proposal that sits in the New York State Assembly and Senate would save the Tuckahoe School District more than $100,000 annually. Contributed photo

By CHRIS EBERHART
A law proposal specific to Tuckahoe that would save the village’s school district more than $100,000 annually is sitting in the state Legislature and state elected officials paint a grim picture of the proposal’s future.

The bill, which proposes a reduction of mandated bus transportation for Tuckahoe’s private school students from 15 miles to seven miles, is stuck in the respective committees in the New York State Assembly and Senate, according to Democratic state officials Sen. George Latimer, of Rye, and Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, of Scarsdale.

As it stands now, New York State law mandates each public school district provide bus transportation to all district residing students within 15 miles of any private school they may attend. Latimer and Paulin are essentially seeking to make Tuckahoe an exception to the law, which would save the district money.

Victor Karlsson, Tuckahoe school district’s business administrator, said the public school district is spending about $480,000 this year on bus transportation, and the eight-mile reduction would save roughly $120,000 annually by cutting the route to private schools from 15 miles to seven.

Karlsson said, as of last January when the numbers were taken, there are 22 students that would lose transportation if the bill was to pass.

Latimer said in his proposal to the Senate, “While this requirement [of 15 miles] may be sound for school districts of large geographical size, it may be a burden to small school districts such as the Village of Tuckahoe, which is only 2.25 square-miles in size.”

Karlsson said most of the students do live within the seven-mile radius, but those that live outside that radius, if the bill were to pass, would have to find other means of transportation to school.

The idea came about last January, Karlsson said, when the Tuckahoe school district approached the two state legislators with the idea of reducing the mandated 15-mile bus route in order to save money. Though both state officials were in favor of the idea, Latimer and Paulin said they’ve had no luck even getting the bill out of the committees and onto the floor since last year.

“This bill has been impossible,” Paulin said, “and that’s because, in the state education committee, there’s probably as many as one bill to reduce the mileage and 30 bills to increase [the mileage]. All those areas that are in the rural parts of the state and all of those legislators that have those kind of constituencies are pushing the bus route bills to go past 15 miles to 20 miles to 30 miles. So, to put our bill out there is like opening Pandora’s box.”

Latimer said the same holds true for the Senate.

“I’ve been unable to move the bill to even get consideration,” Latimer said. “What I hear back from leadership is they don’t want to deal with an individual community response to something like this. If it’s going to be dealt with, it’s going to be dealt with on a broader basis.”

Even though the bill never budged last year, Paulin and Latimer re-proposed the bill for the 2014 legislative year.

“The bill is still alive,” Lati-mer said. “It still sits in the committees. But we’ve seen bills on unrelated topics sit in committees for eight years, 10 years, and never move and then circumstances happen and it moves. But it doesn’t look like the Tuckahoe bill will happen this year.”

According to the proposal, if the bill was passed into law, the Tuckahoe school board would have to adopt a resolution for the change in mileage to take place.

Contact: christopher@hometwn.com