By Ben Kleppinger
5:04 PM EDT, October 10, 2012
STANFORD — The Lincoln County School Board has approved a plan that could allow the district to replace its active buses every 14 years at little or no net cost to the district.
Ronnie Deatherage, chief deputy of quality support, told board members reimbursements available from the state would make upgrading the district's aging fleet possible.
The Kentucky Interlocal School Transportation Association repays school districts a percentage of the cost of new buses every year for 10 years, with the repayments totaling 100 percent of the cost to buy the buses new.
Deatherage said after the first 10 years, KISTA also offers bonus reimbursements of 6 percent of the cost for four more years.
That means the district would be paid 124 percent of the original cost of each new bus over the course of 14 years.
Deatherage recommended the board purchase one special-needs bus and three standard buses at a total cost of $398,556.
During the 14 years the buses would be in reimbursement, the district would be reimbursed a total of about $470,000, which should cover the cost of the new buses and the financing cost of about $72,000, making the plan potentially cost-neutral, Deatherage said Tuesday.
Lincoln has used the KISTA reimbursement option for bus purchases in the past, but currently only 37 of the district's 73-bus fleet are new enough to still be generating reimbursement payments from the state.
The remaining 36 buses in the fleet are more than 14 years old and no longer receive reimbursement payments. Eleven of those are about two decades old, according to information provided by Deatherage.
The district currently uses 21 buses that are more than 14 years old on daily routes. Other old buses are used as back-ups when active buses need repairs.
Deatherage submitted a plan for regular bus replacement through KISTA reimbursements that could keep Lincoln County on a continuous 14-year bus-replacement cycle.
Under Deatherage's plan, the school would buy four new buses eligible for KISTA reimbursement every year. Every fourth year, the school would purchase an additional KISTA-reimbursement-eligible bus. Over 14 years, the plan would replace each one of the district's 59 active buses.
School Board member Tim Jackson said he would like to know if the district could purchase one of the four buses outright and save on the financing costs.
Deatherage confirmed Tuesday if the school finds enough money to purchase one of the buses outright that the bonus reimbursements at the end of the bus' 14-year life would be money in the bank for the district, since it wouldn't have had to pay any finance charges.
Board members were unsure whether initial costs for buying the buses could be payed out of the school's capital outlay fund or would need to come out of the general fund.
The board voted unanimously to commit to purchasing the buses and work out the details of which fund will cover the initial cost later.