Bus operators currently pay as much as 85 cents per gallon of diesel fuel in local, state and federal taxes, most of which is allocated to the state.
Moreover, by decreasing the number of school days, Rivera said districts could save hundreds of millions of dollars in school heating, electricity and pupil transportation costs.
“By having plans in place for an extended school day but only a four-day school week, school districts will automatically save 20% in pupil transportation costs,” Rivera said. “We are talking about tens of millions of dollars in savings for each school district in New York.”
Elementary schools, which did not return calls for comment, will be affected by the elimination of the school bus diesel fuel tax, but all schools would be affected by the change in the possibility of a four-day school week. High schools weighed in on their concerns.
Surprised by the proposal, Christopher Columbus High School principal Lisa Maffei-Fuentes questioned, “Are we more worried about money or students graduating? I don’t see how reducing the week could improve education.”
Preston High School principal Sr. Lucille Coldrick said that in addition to the students’ studies, “This would have an impact on their co-curricular activities.”
Though it may be difficult for people to understand, Rivera said, “I have no doubt school tax bills will shock property owners across the state next year if immediate action isn’t taken.”
Rivera explained rising fuel costs would continue to hurt New York’s schools and homeowners if a solution isn’t adopted soon.
“With a barrel of oil nearing the $135 mark and diesel fuel heading toward six dollars per gallon, our economy and taxpayers are suffering the impact, and school districts with their tight budgets are not in a position to handle this growing problem,” he stated.
With more than 55,000 diesel powered school buses servicing more than two million children in 700 school districts across New York state, Rivera said the time to make change is now.
“Increases in these diesel fuel costs will no doubt have heavy negative impact on school districts’ budgets and this is a situation that needs immediate action because it is an immediate problem.”
Coldrick said she still couldn’t help but worry how an extended day would affect the students, especially in the winter months.
“We’re always concerned for our students traveling home in the dark,” she commented.
If the legislative action is adopted, school districts would have to submit their plans for a four-day school week to the commissioner of the State Education Department by the end of August.