SCS proposes new bus plan
New bus replacement plan offers a better use of resources
Residents to vote on new and innovative bus plan May 17
At a special meeting of the Board of Education on Tuesday night, board members approved a recommendation to establish a school bus replacement plan that will ultimately reduce the number of buses, increase the predictability of costs, and better ensure the safety of student riders. Voters will be asked to approve the plan on this year's May 17 ballot.
Superintendent Ken Slentz and Assistant Business Administrator Christine DeMass detailed the plan to the Board, noting that the biggest change would be asking the community to approve the purchase of four buses each year instead of the usual two (while still reducing the size of the fleet in the long run).
"Our buses are showing their age,” said Slentz. “The buses also show the impact of traveling roughly 14,000 miles a year. These are not easy miles. The daily stop/start nature takes a toll vastly unlike what we experience when driving our own vehicles on these same country roads,” he said.
The constant wear-and-tear, coupled with the age of the fleet, means that that a number of buses are out of service for repair on any given day. Many of these buses are no longer under the 5 year warranty, which means the district bears the full cost of the needed repairs.
The goal is to keep buses for a shorter time, while they are in good condition and still under warranty, for eventual big savings.
Under the recommended plan, the district would purchase four new buses (instead of the usual two) each year and trade them in after five years when the warranty expires. This would ensure a guaranteed buy-back value of 33 percent of the purchase price of the bus. "When coupled with our state aid reimbursement of 34 percent, this is a wise investment strategy that will not only increase the predictability of our future costs, but will also allow us to focus our attention on proactive, preventive maintenance," said Slentz.
Board President Tom Lambdin noted, "While we will be asking the voters to support an additional investment in our bus fleet, the returns on that investment – including improved safety of our fleet, predictability of costs, and decrease in our repair bills – will be great. The eventual cost savings will allow us to better place our limited resources in the classroom."
In the recommendation provided to the Board, Slentz detailed the benefits of such a plan which include:
- an increase in the safety of our fleet thereby decreasing the current level of risk;
- a decrease in the maintenance costs which could lead to a reduction in the maintenance staff;
- an increased focus on proactive, preventive maintenance;
- a decrease in the number of out of service buses due to maintenance issues thereby leading to a decrease in fleet size from 24 buses to 20 buses;
- an increase in the predictability of costs; and
- continuous improvement in the NYS DOT inspection approval rate.
Slentz also explained the initial costs of the plan.
"This is a five year plan in which an additional investment of about $112,000 is needed over the course of those five years," said Slentz. "However, the benefits of the plan, particularly the increase in safety and the decreased maintenance costs, will begin to be realized each year with the new round of replacements. In year six, the district will realize a decrease of approximately $60,000 in our bus payments alone."
So what does this mean? “The plan begins to pay for itself beginning in year six," said Slentz.
The Board expressed concern with the increased cost in years one through five of the plan. To address this, board members directed Slentz and the administration to work with the community advisory committees to develop a plan for the establishment of a reserve fund that would offset the additional costs. “We will be utilizing existing funds to establish this reserve. Said differently, we will not be asking for additional money for this reserve,” said Slentz.
"We have had initial discussions about the plan with our Audit, Budget, and Finance Advisory Committee as well as with our Strategic Planning Advisory Committee", said Slentz. "We look forward to moving forward with further discussions and development of this plan so as to provide residents with as much information as possible before they are asked to vote on May 17."
For additional information on the bus replacement plan, please go to www.skanschools.org