September 06, 2019 New Legislation Allowing for the Installation of School Bus Cameras (School Districts*)
KEEPING YOU INFORMED…
We are writing to inform you of recent legislation, which became effective today, September 5, 2019, which permits municipalities, in conjunction with public school districts, to install cameras that will automatically ticket drivers who illegally pass school buses with extended stop signs. The following questions and answers address the key elements of the new law as applicable to public school districts.
- What is the primary purpose of the new law?
The newly enacted legislation permits a county, city, village or town to adopt or amend a local law or ordinance establishing a pilot program permitting the municipality to install and operate school bus photo violation monitoring systems. Similar to a red light camera, the Monitoring Systems, which may be stationary or mobile, will take images of vehicles that fail to stop when a school bus has its stop-arm extended. That data will then be transmitted to the municipality, which will issue tickets to the vehicle owners.
- How do school districts partner with municipalities to install the monitoring devices on school buses owned or operated by school districts or private bus companies?
Following the enactment of the municipality’s local law or ordinance providing for the implementation of a monitoring program, the municipality may then enter into agreements with school districts located within that municipality to install the Monitoring Systems on buses owned and operated by the school districts or owned and operated by private companies pursuant to contracts with the school districts.
If a school district wishes to participate in this voluntary program, the board of education must pass a resolution authorizing the school district to enter into an agreement with a municipality for the installation and operation of Monitoring Systems.
- Is every school district eligible to participate in a monitoring program?
No. The only school districts that may participate in a school bus monitoring program are those located within the jurisdiction of a municipality – whether county, town, city or village -that has adopted a local law or ordinance authorizing the implementation of Monitoring Systems.
- Can a municipality install Monitoring Systems on buses without the consent of the local school district?
No. An agreement must first be entered into between the school district and the municipality before any Monitoring Systems can be installed.
- Are private schools permitted to enter into agreements to install Monitoring Systems?
Probably not. The new law only permits “school districts,” which we believe currently includes only public school districts, to enter into agreements with municipalities to install Monitoring Systems.
- Are there limitations as to which municipalities may enter into agreements with school districts located within its boundaries?
Yes. Once a school district enters into an agreement with a county to install and operate Monitoring Systems, no city, village or town within that county is permitted to enter into, or be a party to, an agreement with the same school district. While not explicitly addressed within the statute, once the contract with the county lapses or is otherwise terminated, a city, village or town is, presumably, then free to enter into an agreement with the same school district.
The new law also prohibits a county from entering into an agreement with any city school district that is wholly contained within a city. In this situation, only the city may enter into an agreement.
- When did the law become effective and does it expire?
The law became effective on September 5, 2019. However, the law expires on December 1, 2024. It will then be up to the Legislature and Governor to decide whether to extend the school bus camera program through additional legislation.
- If a school district agrees to partner with a municipality, will it bear any of the costs associated with installing and maintaining the Monitoring Systems?
Depending on the contractual arrangement reached with the municipality, it is possible that a school district may incur some costs associated with the installation and maintenance of the Monitoring Systems. However, ultimately, the total cost for installing, maintaining and using the Monitoring Systems is to be borne entirely by the municipality. Thus, if the school district incurs any costs, the municipality must reimburse the school district for those costs on an annual basis.
- How does a school district receive reimbursement from the municipality?
The new law provides that, by September 1 of each year, the school district must determine and certify to the municipality the total cost to the school district in the prior school year for installing, maintaining and using the Monitoring System, as well as the cost associated with handling the data produced by the System. The municipality is then required to reimburse the school district by December 1 of the same year. The school district must report to the Legislature on an annual basis the certified costs and amounts paid and due by each municipality.
- What if the municipality fails to make payment by the due date?
If a municipality does not make payment to the school district by the due date then, 20 days thereafter, the school district is to report the non-payment to the Legislature and the monitoring program is to be suspended until payment is received.
- Can a school district receive State transportation aide for costs associated with the Monitoring Systems?
No. The law specifically precludes school districts from receiving State transportation aid for expenses incurred from this program, presumably because the districts will receive reimbursement for all associated costs from the municipality.
- Can a school district that contracts with private school bus companies participate in this program?
Yes. The new law permits the installation of Monitoring Systems on school buses owned by a private company that contracts with a school district. School districts may need to amend their contracts with the private companies or amend their transportation bid specifications or requests for proposals to address the Monitoring Systems.
- Will school districts receive any of the revenue generated by the monitoring program?
No. Any penalties collected from the traffic tickets issued to the owners of vehicles who fail to stop when a school bus has its stop-arm extended will go to the municipality that installed the Monitoring Systems.
- Can a school district use the images and data gathered from the Monitoring Systems for other purposes?
No. Monitoring Systems mounted on a school bus must be directed outward from the bus to capture images of vehicles failing to stop when the bus has its stop-arm extended. The statute explicitly states that the images captured by the devices “shall not be used for any other purpose.” Similarly, images captured by the Monitoring Systems are “inadmissible in any disciplinary proceeding convened by any school district or any school bus contractor,” as well as in any proceeding initiated by the State to address the licensure privileges of school bus operators.
If you have any questions regarding this newly enacted law, or if a county, city, town or village contacts you concerning the installation and use of a school bus photo violation Monitoring System, please contact Joshua Sprague or any of our other attorneys at 631-694-2300.
THIS MEMORANDUM IS MEANT TO ASSIST IN GENERAL UNDERSTANDING OF THE CURRENT LAW. IT IS NOT TO BE REGARDED AS LEGAL ADVICE. THOSE WITH PARTICULAR QUESTIONS SHOULD SEEK THE ADVICE OF COUNSEL.
© Lamb & Barnosky, LLP 2019
* School Districts: NOT private schools, charter schools or BOCES