School district looks to Florida legislature to obtain much needed buses

WEAR - New school bus demand

The Okaloosa County School District decided to delay its proposed sales tax increase vote amid an investigation into child abuse allegations against one of its teachers.

The tax was proposed to improve infrastructure at every school in the district, including new buses to change start times and relieve traffic around Florosa Elementary and Hurlburt Field.

But the district hasn't given up hope on relieving congestion on that stretch of Highway 98.

With the addition of the dozen school buses to the Okaloosa County School District's bus fleet, it would allow them to change the start time at Florosa Elementary School so that it could relieve some of the traffic on Highway 98 that comes with Hurlburt Field being right next door.

Eric Musni works in Destin. One of the worst parts of the commute comes right before he gets home, the logjam in front of Hurlburt Field and Florosa Elementary as parents collect their kids and airmen try to get home.

"When we go home at about 3 o'clock, it is the same thing, we are always stuck in traffic," Musni said.

School district leaders hope House Bill 3031, filed by members of the northwest Florida delegation, will pass and give the district more than a million dollars for buses.

"I was told yesterday the fact that we've gotten to this point is good, but it's a long road ahead. There is nothing guaranteed when you go through Tallahassee," Okaloosa County school board member Tim Bryant said.

Right now, Florosa Elementary starts at the same time airmen commute to Hurlburt Field.

The district can't do anything, because the buses assigned to Florosa Elementary also must drop middle and high school students off earlier in the morning.

"But if we can do our part and the state can help us get the buses, that'll be a plus," Bryant said.

The congestion affects Hurlburt as well.

Lieutenant Colonel Dustin Richards said his airmen would welcome the shortened less frustrating commute.

"For Hurlburt, it's going to give quality of life and time back to our people as they leave the base in the afternoons and as they come in the mornings," Lt. Col Richards said.

As for Eric, who's dealt with the traffic for seven years, the relief can't come soon enough.

"This would be really awesome for me and my wife," Musni said.

If the bill does pass the house, the school district would assume the costs of paying the drivers.

That bill would total a little more than $300,000.

According to the chief financial officer for Okaloosa County's School District, the county's bus fleet it the oldest in the state of Florida.

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