Restore School Transportation Funding

May 17, 2013

Hartford, CT – State Senator Toni Boucher (R-Wilton) ranking member on the Transportation Committee joined a broad based coalition of organizations representing towns, public school superintendents, boards of education, private and parochial schools calling for the restoration of funding for the school transportation grant.

“School transportation funding should not be negotiable,” said Sen. Boucher. “These districts will have to make up the money in core areas such as educational programs and services.”

The budget approved by the Appropriations Committee – which Sen. Boucher voted against – eliminates funding for public and non-public school transportation by some $28 million per year. The Governor’s proposed budget also eliminated funding for school transportation. For instance, the town of Bethel would see a loss of $83,391 FY 13 in the proposed Appropriations budget vs. $68,089 FY 13 in the Governor’s proposed budget.

“In eliminating the transportation subsidy, both the Governor’s and the Committees’ proposals will replace the state allocation with a competitive grant program. The $5million in competitive funding is meant to incentivize districts to regionalize transportation services. However, the collation, and I agree, that the cost benefits suggested in this proposal would not materialize. Impracticalities would arise. Schools would need to merge so that bus runs could be reduced. If the numbers of schools would remain the same in a new region, the number of buses would remain the same unless there was a significant reduction in school populations. It is also unreasonable to expect children as young as five years old to ride a bus for as long as 2 hours if economies of scale could be truly realized,” stated Sen. Boucher.

“This idea of regionalizing buses that bring children to school around a wide ranging area would be a logistical nightmare. It should be considered that some of the barriers in implementing this include towns having different school calendars, different start times, and extra- curricular club schedules,” added Sen. Boucher. “Every dollar of state aid that gets cut could mean higher property taxes.”

Coupled with other budgets cuts, Senator Boucher contends the elimination of this transportation funding will shift more cost burdens onto property taxpayers to fund education services. This is especially troublesome for the state as Connecticut relies more on local property taxes to fund pre-k-12 public education than any other state in the nation according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“It should also be noted that many parents who choose a parochial or independent school to educate their children also pay the property taxes that fund local public schools,” said Sen. Boucher.

The general assembly will ultimately have to approve any budget that is finally placed before lawmakers. The legislative session is scheduled to end midnight, June 5.