The Lafayette Parish School System's transportation director said he supports installing seat belts on school buses, but the endeavor would be a financial strain and a "monumental liability."

Director of Transportation Damon Evans said seat belts aren't included in the specifications for the five, 71-passenger school buses the LPSS plans to buy during the 2014-2015 school year.

"There's some experts that actually do not like (seat belts) on the bus, because some of the injuries that actually occur are actually greater with seat belts in use," Evans said. "If a bus catches fire, how many kids are we gonna lose? It would be a monumental liability."

The issue came up during the Lafayette Parish School Board's April 15 budget workshop.

District 1 Board Member Mark Allen Babineaux said vendors at the National School Board Association conference last week showcased seat belts that could be attached or detached as needed.

If a bus catches fire, how many kids are we gonna lose? It would be a monumental liability.

"I was wondering whether or not that could be a solution for distance travel," Babineaux questioned.

But District 9 Board Member Rae Trahan — a former bus driver — noted that most long-distance trips called for contracted bus service that doesn't involve buses owned by the school system.

Trahan later questioned how a bus driver — who's required by law to remain in his seat — could ensure all kids on board are actually seat belted.

Evans agreed that enforcing seat belt use would be an issue, and he also said retrofitting the buses with seat belts could cost up to $1.7 million — a hefty price tag for a school district still struggling to get its technology up to par.

"My opinion on it is probably not to have it right now, because we are in a financial bind going into the future," Evans said. "I would like to see them on the buses, but we're in a situation where we've got to make a choice about that.

Evans said the LPSS currently has 10-15 seat belts used primarily in special ed buses.

Chief Financial Officer Billy Guidry said purchasing new buses is part of an effort to reduce both the number of leased buses operating throughout the district and the overall age of buses in the system.

"By replacing our buses, about eight a year, it wouldn't be but a few years down the road where we'd reduce the average life of our buses to 14 years," Guidry said, "which is a tremendous improvement."