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Sunday, June 16, 2024
HomeNewsArchivesSt. Croix School Buses Stop Running

St. Croix School Buses Stop Running

The company that runs St. Croix school buses has stopped running buses because the V.I. Education Department is behind on payments. Parents must find other arrangements to get students to and from school "until further notice," according to Education, prompting outrage from at least one senator.

Abramson Inc., the school bus company owned by former Public Works Commissioner Ann Abramson, notified Education roughly two weeks ago it was behind on its payments to provide school bus service on St. Croix., according to Education.

Education was paid up until the end of January, and since then has fallen $628,000 behind on a nearly $4 million contract with Abramson for bus service.

Education officials said Monday they hoped the balance would be paid by the end of the week. Services such as bus transportation are paid for with General Funds, which have continued to dwindle in the wake of the ongoing economic recession.

Education Commissioner LaVerne Terry said Monday the Department has worked aggressively to identify the money needed to take care of the remaining balance.

“We looked in all budget categories to see what we can identify,” Terry said. “We are also trying to work with the bus company to get services back online as soon as possible.”

Until then, parents and guardians are asked to continue picking up and dropping off their children. Special Education bus service has also been affected.

Senator Janette Millin-Young, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Education, Youth and Culture, sharply criticized the Education Department and Government House in a statement, saying the Legislature would have found the money despite the government’s ongoing fiscal crisis.

“It is an absolute outrage to have school bus service terminated for non-payment, particularly when the administration could have prevented this situation by communicating with the Legislature,” Millin-Young said.

According to the senator, Education asked for an appropriations transfer of $10.6 million in January, of which $5.7 million was to be earmarked to pay for pupil transportation services. But on Jan. 31, two days before the Finance Committee met to consider ratification of the request, Terry wrote to OMB reducing the appropriation request from $10.6 million to $4.5 million, eliminating the request for school bus funding, according to Millin-Young.

Her statement did not say where the money would come from, but she said telling the Legislature would have given it an opportunity to act.

“In the hearing on Feb. 2, I specifically asked Department of Education officials if they had enough money for pupil transportation, particularly since tough economic times are forcing many parents to transfer their children from private to public schools, thus increasing the public school population,” Millin-Young said. “Had they simply come clean with us then, we could have identified and moved funds to address this priority issue. Instead, Education officials said that those costs had been factored in.”

At that time, Government House had been warning of imminent fiscal crisis for over a year and had just laid off hundreds of teachers and other government employees due to lack of funds to pay them. Millin-Young quotes a letter that Terry wrote the Legislature in which Terry said the request was reduced “to comply with the Office of Management’s and Budget’s Jan. 27 notification of allotment reduction for Fiscal Year 2012.”

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