Letcher Schools Supt. Tony Sergent said the district must purchase more new buses to replace older buses.
Seven school buses that are 15 years or older are part of the 52- bus fleet that hauls Letcher County students to and from school each weekday.
“ We budgeted $ 200,000, but after looking at our bus situation we felt like that we needed to try to buy five,” Sergent told the Letcher County Board of Education last week. “It’s a situation that needs attention now. Since about 2008 we have only been buying one bus, no buses, two buses.”
Sergent said the district probably should have been buying five or six buses each year.
Board Chairman Will Smith said he has always been an advocate to buy buses every year.
“It seems like several years that we didn’t do it and we’re paying for it now,” said Smith. “We’ve got to start somewhere. This isn’t going to solve our problem overnight, but you’ve got to start somewhere. It is a problem that is going to eat us alive.”
Arlie Lee, school bus driver trainer for the district, said nine school buses were bought in 1996 and five buses in 2006, but since 2008 only 11 new buses have been purchased in the district. Two buses were purchased during the 2012-2013 school year.
“We are getting to the point where we are having to reach back and pull out buses that we have retired,” said Arlie Lee. “We’ve had to stick them in places where we could alternate to keep the mileage down on the newer ones so we could continue to use them and just filter out the older ones as we can to be able to take care of what new ones we were getting.”
Lee told the board that some buses have broken down and required maintenance this school year.
“ I want you all to be aware that it is important for us to replenish our fleet,” said Lee. “We’re to the point where we are scrambling to get kids back and forth to school.”
Sergent said if the district doesn’t take steps to start replenishing its fleet, an unsolvable problem will be left for a future superintendent.
“Ten or 12 years down the road you would need to buy 20 buses,” said Sergent.
Board member Robert Kiser asked during the board meeting if finances are available for the board to purchase five buses.
Sergent told Kiser that $200,000 had been budgeted to purchase two new buses for the 2013-2014 school year and that $289,000 will be taken out of the contingency fund to buy three additional buses.
“We talked about balancing the budget, spending the same amount we bring in, “ said Sergent. “With this we will be overspending this year. That means I’ve got some more work to do.”
Sergent suggested that the board buy four buses each year for 14 years.
“You could get in a rotation where that after the 14th year they could be retired from the fleet,” said Sergent. “Now is that going to happen in the next eight years? No, unless we could buy 10 or 12 buses a year. I’m going to set us on that path.”
Sergent said it will take at least eight to 10 years for his vision to come true.
“If we don’t do it now, it is going to be a really tough situation,” said Sergent.
The 1997 and 1998 model buses will be pulled from the fleet, Sergent said, after five new buses are ordered this school year.
“ Then we’ll attack the 2000s the next year and so on,” said Sergent. “We don’t want 20-year-old buses on the road. It’s a situation that needs to be addressed.”
The district owns seven 2002-model buses and seven 2003-model buses.
“Depreciation for our buses is over after 14 years,” said Sergent. “When that bus moves from being depreciated where we can get some money for it, then we would move it out of the fleet.”