DES MOINES, Iowa — The state’s school bus inspection fee has increased from $28 to $40 per vehicle, a move that will enable the Iowa Department of Education’s Office of School Transportation to hire an additional inspector.
As SBF reported earlier this year, the need for more school bus inspectors is an issue that state pupil transportation director Max Christensen has been working on for more than six years, as the state has 348 school districts and a fleet of 7,500 vehicles.
The state currently has two school bus inspectors: Verlan Vos and Joe Funk, who was hired several months ago.
The Iowa Board of Education in February approved the fee increase proposal, but it was then put on hold pending approval from the office of Gov. Terry Branstad.
(Christensen told SBF that proposals must be approved and passed twice by the state’s school board and twice by the Legislative Rules Committee at the capitol.)
On June 11, the Legislative Rules Committee gave final approval to the inspection fee increase, and Christensen said this week that his office is immediately going into “hiring mode” for a third inspector.
Of the proposal, Christensen told SBF that it was narrowly approved by the Legislative Rules Committee.
“Several members tried to block it by offering a proposal to ‘legislatively delay’ it until the legislative session in January 2014 and let the entire Legislature take up the measure at that time,” Christensen explained. “Such a delay would have prevented us from even coming back with a proposed rule of a lesser increase, such as, say, $35.
“After much discussion and questions to our staff and public input from several transportation directors in the crowd and the executive director of the Iowa Pupil Transportation Association [IPTA], a vote was taken on the proposal to delay. The vote was 4 to 4, with two members missing. We win ties, so we just squeaked by! We were thankful for the support from the schools and the IPTA, as one senator related to us after the vote that they had changed his mind, and he thus voted in our favor. Without the support, we likely would have lost,” he added.