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WCPS opposes bus emissions bill

Morgan testifies against 'unfunded mandate'

Morgan testifies against 'unfunded mandate'

February 25, 2009|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

ANNAPOLIS -- Washington County Public Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan testified Wednesday against a bill she says could cost the county more than $2 million.

The bill, heard by a committee Wednesday, would require public school buses to be outfitted with equipment that would reduce diesel emissions.

The bill would prohibit school districts from using a school bus unless the bus was equipped with the upgrades - which cost about $700 per bus.

Washington County Board of Education President Wayne D. Ridenour also offered written testimony opposing the bill on behalf of the school board.

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Del. Dan K. Morhaim, D-Baltimore County, sponsored the bill, which he said would help prevent respiratory illnesses for children who ride school buses and others.

"The health consequences of diesel pollution are quite serious," Morhaim said.

Not only do diesel emissions go into the air, but they also are sucked back into the bus cabin, where the children sit, Morhaim said. The technology called for in the bill would prevent emissions from entering the cabin.

Morgan said in order to meet the demands, Washington County Public Schools would need to spend about $83,300 before October, and private bus contractors, who own their own buses, would need to spend an additional $32,900.

The bill also would call for the school system to spend between $1.2 million and $1.8 million to upgrade 96 buses before 2014. Private bus contractors would be required to spend between $250,000 and $375,000 to upgrade their buses.

Morgan said she opposed the bill because it was an "unfunded mandate" for local school systems. The state has not budgeted money for the bus upgrades.

She also said school buses are replaced about every 12 years, and it made more sense to wait until a new bus was needed. The newly purchased bus would come with the diesel emission reduction equipment called for in the bill.

The bill also is opposed by the Public School Superintendents' Association of Maryland and several other groups.

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