The first round of new yellow school buses cannot get here soon enough.
School officials confirmed today that over the next five-years, Carroll ISD will replace all of its current buses using proceeds from the 2017 Bond Program. The first 16 yellow school buses are expected to be on the School Board’s November 13 agenda for consideration.
“We are phasing in the purchase of new buses to replace our aging fleet,” said CISD Transportation Director Ranjan George. “The average age of our fleet is over 10 years. The new buses will be equipped with air conditioning, video surveillance cameras and seat belts. We are looking forward to retiring some of our older buses that have been experiencing ongoing maintenance issues.”
Last fall, school officials presented a plan for bus and maintenance vehicle replacement before a Capital Needs Planning Committee (CNPC) made up of local citizens, parents and staff. The plan phases in annual purchases for regular route buses special education buses, activity buses and maintenance vehicles. The CNPC later recommended that the Carroll School Board call a May 2017 bond election. Voters approved $208 million for capital improvements districtwide. Of that total, $7.5 million was earmarked for transportation needs.
“It takes about four to six months from start to finish to order, build and receive delivery of a new school bus,” said Scott Wrehe, Assistant Superintendent for Finance. “The first of two activity buses were approved for purchase at the October 16 School Board meeting, and we plan to bring regular route quotes to the meeting for Board consideration in November.”
A total of 18 buses will be purchased in the first year of the five-year program, including 11 77-passenger buses, two large activity buses for extracurricular program extended trips. three special needs buses and two 47-passenger buses. The plan endorsed by the CNPC includes 15 additional buses annually in years two through four and 11 buses in year five. School officials confirm that at the conclusion of the five-year cycle, the district has a plan to replace buses every 10 years using bond funds. This will ensure that all of the buses won’t need to be retired at the same time going forward.
More than 3,500 students are registered riders in Carroll ISD, that’s up slightly from previous years. Riders pay a fee to ride to and from school and receive a pass. The district currently operates 40 regular routes and seven special needs routes. In addition, more than 1,500 extracurricular trips for athletic, academic and fine arts competitions and field trips are made during the school year, as well as daily shuttle bus routes between Carroll Sr. High and Carroll High Schools.
At least one of the 77-passenger buses slated for consideration November 13 will include an integrated three-point seatbelt system with star seats to provide additional padding and security for preschool field trips. The rest of the buses purchased will include the three-point seatbelt system now required by law.
Although voters approved the bond program in May, school officials had to conduct a bond sale and decide the specifications for the buses, which included waiting to find out if Texas lawmakers would mandate seat belts on buses beginning in September 2017. The legislation passed. and CISD began its work to utilize the state bidding and purchasing cooperative – Buy Board – to purchase the buses. Trustees will take action Nov. 13 and CISD staff hope to have the first of the new buses operational on routes by late spring.
The new legislation requires seat belts on all newly purchased buses after September 1, 2017. School officials say they will assign the new buses with seat belts to routes for the youngest riders and continue to phase in the new buses for secondary students over the life of the bond. Any vehicle with seat belts must be used by the students and school officials say this will require a change for drivers and riders, alike.
After an extensive study of gas, diesel and propane buses, transportation officials are recommending the purchase of gas buses. They require less maintenance and are more efficient than diesel buses for short routes like those used in the 21-square-mile district. Propane buses only get about three miles to the gallon and finding propane on field trips would likely prove difficult for drivers, according to George.
“The diesel activity buses we are purchasing will be for our longer extracurricular trips,” George explained. “These are built to the safety specifications of school buses but look more like a charter bus inside. They do not have restrooms but they will help us avoid some charter bus rental costs for groups like cross country, tennis, band, football, and swimming.”
School officials estimate that the district could have saved $45,000 last year alone if the activity buses had been available. The buses will help transfer operational costs subject to Robin Hood recapture to the debt service budget. That was one of the goals of the CNPC – avoiding operational costs that cost taxpayers the Chapter 41 premium by utilizing bond funds instead.
Information about the Carroll ISD 2017 Bond Program is available on CarrollBudget.com