Local state senators Alexis Weik (R-8th District) and Dean Murray (R-3rd District), along with 13 other senators, submitted a letter to Gov. Kathy Hochul urging her to rescind the electric bus mandate or alternatively commit to fully funding the conversion in the Executive Budget that is currently undergoing the confirmation process.
The first mandate deadline of 2027 was characterized by the undersigned senators as “bearing down on school districts and taxpayers alike” and stated, “the time is now to recognize the overwhelming fiscal demand this mandate presents.”
Beginning in 2027, the mandate, part of the climate initiative of the executive branch of the state, will require all newly purchased school buses to be zero emissions.
A new full-sized electric bus costs $400,000 to $450,000, which is triple the cost of the current price of a bus, which is approximately $130,000.
“There is also the additional cost of necessary infrastructure upgrades, including installation of charging stations, electrical improvements, maintenance, and building renovation,” said the senators in their letter.
“I recognize school districts and taxpayers cannot meet this mandate, and certainly could never meet it without piercing the tax cap or significant cuts in educational services. The impact from this mandate will completely bury school districts and taxpayers,” said Weik.
Murray, who when asked for a statement, said he had literally just finished speaking with a superintendent in his district about the financial impact the mandate would have on their budget, said, “I have not spoken to a single school official that thinks this is a realistic idea. This is another example of an idea with a good intention that is simply not practical. The cost alone makes it unreasonable.”
With the FY 2025 budget proposal that cutting funding to schools across Long Island by over $75 million, Murray said, “How are we supposed to be able to pay for buses that cost roughly double what their existing buses cost?”
In addition to the costs, the senators also questioned the availability of infrastructure and performance of the vehicles.
“The performance of the electric buses simply can’t hold up to the demand. When temperatures drop below zero, those batteries drain very quickly and they simply won’t have the power necessary to get the job done safely. Finally, the sheer weight of the electric buses will wreak havoc on the infrastructure,” said Murray.
“Rather than setting unrealistic deadlines designed to grab headlines... we should set reasonable expectations and plan accordingly. At the very least, perhaps the state should pay for each district to test run one electric bus for the entire school year to evaluate performance, cost, reliability, etc., before we ask anyone to make such a drastic investment,” said Murray.
With 45,000 school buses in the state, full conversion by 2035 would cost approximately $20 billion.
“The cost is over and above what school districts already pay for replacement buses, [which] is projected at between $8 billion and $15 billion statewide. These totals don’t even include the required infrastructure upgrades, including installation of charging stations, electrical improvements, bus garage renovations and so on. Without question, the $100 million in grants the state just made available for electric school bus purchases won’t be nearly enough. That amount is enough to fund about 250 buses statewide. With over 800 school districts statewide, that isn’t even one bus per district. Even the additional $400 million to be allocated in future rounds won’t make a dent in the cost of conversion,” said Weik.
State Sen. Monica Martinez (D-4th District) was not one of the undersigned senators in the letter urging rescindment from the governor.
She characterized transitioning to zero-emission school buses as a “laudable mission that will protect both the health of New Yorkers and our environment,” but said she was “conscious that striking a balance between policy goals and practical implementation is key. Achieving this target will depend on the technology meeting the expectations placed upon it and ensuring there is the necessary support for its successful fulfillment.”
Martinez said that she would be open to sitting down with stakeholders “if the parameters of this change are too ambitious for the timeline set by lawmakers in 2022… and if merited, translating those concerns into policy.”
She pledged to navigate this transition with “pragmatism, avoiding obstruction for the sake of it, to ensure we realize the vital environmental and health benefits this goal seeks to achieve without succumbing to pessimism.”
Superintendent Dr. Timothy Hearney of Bayport-Blue Point School District said, “There are a multitude of factors to consider regarding this potential mandate and the impact it will have on area school districts, included but not limited to the financial implications, technological resource availability, and transition feasibility for deploying a full fleet of electric school buses.”
Hearney called it “premature” to project the impact, but said the district was “closely monitoring… with our local elected officials and transportation providers. While we do support efforts toward creating greener operations, simply said, more information and collaborative discussion is needed to consider all aspects of such a widespread state proposal.”
Connetquot School District superintendent Dr. Joseph Centamore said, “Connetquot has over 120 buses, so this mandate from the state would cost the district tens of millions of dollars in purchases and infrastructure work. It is doubtful that the island’s energy grid could support it, and there are many safety component questions that the state still needs to address. The current transition timeline is not realistic and requires significant adjustment.”
Sayville School District is served by Suffolk Transportation Services, who did not respond by time of print.