The Groveport Madison Local Schools District is working its way back into the bus business.
At a special Groveport Madison Board of Education meeting, held July 13 in the home of board member Duane Dailey, the board approved, by a 3-2 vote, the lease/purchase of 35 school buses. The number includes five buses each from the seven model years of 2001 through 2007.
These buses will be added to the 10 buses – which include five 2008 models from Midwest Transit and five from 2009 from Cardinal – the board authorized the district to lease/purchase on July 3. This gives the district a fleet of 45 buses.
Board members John Kershner, Nathan Slonaker, and Duane Dailey approved the lease/purchase of the 35 buses while Dr. Naomi Sealey and Mary Tedrow opposed it.
The 35 buses will be obtained from Brake Alert, Inc., a Minnesota company. Kershner said it is expected the buses will be received by the district by the first week of August.
The newly obtained buses will be used instead of buses owned by Petermann, the company which operates Groveport Madison’s busing system. Petermann will continue to operate the buses as the company is under contract with the district to do so until 2011, according to the school board.
Kershner stated the 45 newly acquired buses will cost the district $2.2 million (paid out over time for the life of the leases of the particular buses), which is less than the $2.9 million the district is now spending on Petermann buses. Kershner said the approximate $748,000 savings, along with anticipated residual savings for eventually selling off or trading in buses, could garner the district a total savings of approximately $962,000 over 10 years.
"It gives greater control to the district and we can save roughly $96,000 a year on buses," said Kershner.
Kershner said monies for the five 2008 and five 2009 buses will be offset by the $180,000 the district already had set aside for bus purchases.
Sealey said she disagreed with obtaining 45 buses at once as she preferred acquiring buses a few at a time over a period of years. She felt the realized savings are small in the short term.
"The district needs an increase in funding, many individuals, including the superintendent, the treasurer, and I would like to explore a possible levy in November," said Sealey. "But how can we possibly ask the community for additional money when we are spending $2.2 million on buses? This puts the board in an awkward position with the community…this proposal muddies the waters for any ballot initiative by sending confusing messages to the community."
"We’re saving $96,000 a year," replied Kershner. "We’re controlling our transportation and saving money. I would have no trouble presenting this and explaining it to the public."
In an interview after the meeting Kershner added, "Our vote sends a clear message of who on the board has a tax and spend mentality and who has a frugal, solid business management mentality."
Slonaker stated the bus acquisition "will more than pay for itself in the long run."
Added Dailey, "It’s an expenditure reduction. It’s a positive thing and I think the public will see we’re being frugal."
Tedrow opposed the measure because she felt uncomfortable that Superintendent Scott McKenzie and Treasurer Anthony Swartz, nor the district’s law firm, were not at the meeting to give their input. She felt their advice is needed on such matters to help the board negotiate the legal ramifications involved.
"I wanted to make sure we’re doing things correctly and legally and that we have the money to do it," said Tedrow, who added, "I also have other concerns like, who will go buy the buses, who will check them over, and who will maintain them. Who is going to do all of that?"
On July 3, the board hired Jodi Coleman, at an annual salary of $43,046, to serve as the district’s coordinator of student transportation.
According to Slonaker, Coleman had been handling the bus routing for Petermann.
"She will now be a district employee," said Slonaker. "We’ll be able to communicate directly with her, which we think will encourage more efficient bus routing and flexibility."