Voters to Weigh In On New Sag Harbor School Bus Limits

Chris Andrews, a consultant with Transportation Advisory Services, delivered his first report on March 26. Christine Sampson photo

Residents in the Sag Harbor School District will have the chance in May to vote on a measure that increases access to school transportation for more students.

The Sag Harbor School Board on Monday voted to put on the May 15 ballot a referendum that lowers the distance threshold at which students are eligible to receive busing to school. Currently that threshold is greater than 1 mile from the schools, but the proposal asks voters whether it should instead be half a mile. It would effectively restore the district’s busing practices as they were before 2015, when the community voted to increase the distance to one mile.

The school board’s vote followed a report from Chris Andrews, a representative of Transportation Advisory Services (TAS), the upstate consulting firm that Sag Harbor hired in February to evaluate its busing logistics.

Mr. Andrews’s report explored whether the district could handle the capacity of students if busing was extended to all students. The outcome of that report was that if 80 percent or more of the students inside the “one mile walk zone” were to ride the bus to school, the district would need to purchase one more bus, at a one-time cost of approximately $110,000, and hire one more driver, at an ongoing cost of approximately $80,000 for salary and benefits. Otherwise, Mr. Andrews’s report indicated the district could handle a smaller increase in bus ridership without needing more buses or drivers.

“Having ridden around the district, I can see why parents on the north side of Route 114 would look forward to this,” Mr. Andrews said. “I think you’ll get some good ridership out of that, and there are some other pockets like that.”

Superintendent Katy Graves said the district had received 16 letters in support of changing the rules on busing to include more students.

Board member Susan Lamontagne asked whether the consultants could explore changing the threshold for younger students only. Board member Chris Tice raised the issue of changing the distance threshold to a half mile.

“The geographic area that has seemed to generate the most input on the issue is more than half a mile away from the school,” Ms. Tice said. “To a large extent this issue will be addressed if we go from a mile to half a mile. I put on the table that we revert back to what we used to do — pick up half a mile or further.”

Pressed to make a move Monday night due to legal advertising requirements for ballot referendums, the board ultimately voted 6-0 in favor of the half-mile referendum.