Palm Beach County School Board blames state funding issues for bus breakdowns

Parents want bus problem fixed

JUPITER, Fla. - Twelve-year-old Kenna is riding a Palm Beach County School bus for the first time this year. Her mom, Kelly Wilson, had no idea about the problems with broken buses.

"Once I saw the (Consumer Watchdog) piece I realized there is something to this. There is something going on that needs to be looked into," explained Wilson.

Our Consumer Watchdog investigation heard from insiders including a mechanic and drivers concerned for the safety of children on the buses. School district data shows 70-percent of the district's buses broke down at least once this year including Kenna's bus.

"We talk about teacher salaries, and FCAT testing but the buses are the last thing we think about," explained Wilson.

We found the school district didn't buy any buses this school year, and only bought one last year. The spending slowed in 2010 after more than a decade of buying buses every year.

We pushed school board member, Mike Murgio, for answers.

"What does the district need to do to be able to replace these buses that are causing problems?" we asked.

"Well it's not so much what the district needs to do. What needs to happen is the legislature needs to give us back the half mil of levying authority they took away," explained Murgio.

Murgio said the state slashed its budget by 25 percent, and it doesn't have the power to get that money back.

"Our community supports education and we feel very proud of that fact, but the legislature really dictates that and that's kind of unfair that we don't have the local authority to do what our residents want us to do," explained Murgio.

The district is adding 110 new buses to the fleet next year, but there are concerns that it won't fix the problem.

We found newer buses that are breaking down like 989. It's been on the road five years and it was towed twice in the last few months. It broke down last week, and also in mid March.

"My fear is they are not going to take it seriously until there is a devastating problem," explained Wilson.

The Palm Beach County School District said it doesn't consider bus maintenance a problem, but rather a challenge. The district said it would not put an unsafe bus on the road.

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