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SCHOOL BUSES TO KEEP ROLLING – FOR NOW

The likelihood that the V.I. government won’t have a fiscal year budget in place by Oct. 1 means free school bus service for public school students will continue.
According to a Government House release, Budget Director Ira Mills has told Education Department officials to continue bus service for the first quarter of FY 2001, which begins on Oct. 1 and ends Dec. 31.
Facing the beginning of the new school year at the start of September without the $5.4 million needed to pay for busing students, Gov. Charles Turnbull used savings from recent Education Department resignations and retirements to keep the buses rolling – until Oct. 1.
Mills wrote to Education Commissioner Ruby Simmonds on Sept. 25 to say that the Fiscal Year 2001 Executive Budget was unlikely to be enacted by then. According to the Revised Organic Act, until a new budget is passed and becomes law, the previous year’s budget remains in effect.
"Until a new budget is approved, a rollover budget will be in place," the letter said. "This means that your Fiscal Year 2000 appropriation level and other budgetary guidelines remain in effect."
As of mid-August, it was unclear where Turnbull would find the $5.4 million needed to provide bus service for the entire 2000-2001 school year. A fee of 50 cents per bus ride for both elementary and secondary students proposed by Simmonds would generate only $1.8 million, leaving the administration to come up with another $3.6 million.
Education officials have changed or consolidated bus routes to reduce costs, Simmonds said.
Meanwhile, the governor has asked Mills to amend the FY 2001 budget to include a line-item appropriation within the Education budget that will guarantee free school busing and a year-round maintenance program for public schools.

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