Budget Cuts Could Mean No Seatbelts for School Busses

By: Cierra Putman
NewsWest 9

ODESSA - 2010 was supposed to bring in a new era in Texas school bus safety.

"September 1st, every bus that's ordered from this day forward is supposed to be equipped with 3-point seat belt system," ECISD Director of Transportation, David Morris, said. "Provided the legislature comes up with the money to fund that."

Parents say it's about time.

"I think it is a good thing," Resident, Michelle Thomas said. "We expect children to wear them in the car or any other vehicle that we transport them in. I think if we want them to be safe as they can be, we've got to keep them in the seatbelt."

Even some kids gave the thumbs up.

"I think we should put seat belts in the school buses," 8th grader, Nicolas Marquez, said. "Usually when I'm on (the bus) I'm flying around and on the floor and everything. I'd rather be on the seat then on the floor."

Only special needs and activity busses have seat belts right now, but they're only lap seat belts. The new law requires belts that cover both the shoulders and the lap.

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) was supposed to provide the cash and local districts were ready.

"We have it in our budget where we think we can buy approximately 7 buses this year," Morris said.

Originally, the Texas Education Agency had $10 million to reimburse districts. After this year's budget cuts, there's only $3.6 million left.

Without TEA's help, ECISD won't be able to get the belts.

"If it stays that way then everybody in the state is not going to get funding for seatbelts," Morris said. "We're paying approximately $90,000 per school bus without the seatbelts. Another $10,000 will make it $100,000. So, we're going to need to rely on the legislature for that funding."

Parents say they'll even chip in if they have to.

"If they've already passed the law then they need to come up with the money somewhere, even if it means to raise our taxes a little bit," Resident, Misty Turner, said." If it helps keep the kids safe, I think that's what we should do."

Morris says so far the TEA hasn't even told him how to request the money.

If they run out of money, the Agency says they'll look into other ways to fund the program.