DPS approves bus purchases

By BOB OLIVER
Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — The Dearborn Public Schools Board of Education approved the purchase of 18 new buses, first big spending project associated with the SMART bond passed by voters in November.

At the Feb. 10 meeting, the board unanimously approved the purchase to replace older, high-mileage buses currently in their fleet.

The district will purchase eight 78-passenger general education buses, two 78-passenger air-conditioned special education buses, four 72-passenger air-conditioned special education lift buses and four 72-passenger special education lift buses.

All of the buses will be purchased from the Holland Bus Co. and will cost approximately $2 million.

DPS Business and Operations Director Samuel Barna said the district anticipates delivery of the buses in either July or August and expects them to be available when classes begin in the fall.

He also said this is the first of two planned bus purchases, the second of which will take place in the next two years and will involve approximately 12 additional buses.

The total cost of the 30 new school buses will be roughly $3.6 million.

Funding for the new buses will come from the $76 security, modifications, additions, renovations, technology and transportation bond.

DPS Human Resources Director Glenn Maleyko said making purchases to address transportation now will greatly help the district moving forward because the fleet of buses is older.

“We have buses that have been used daily for 13 or 14 years,” Maleyko said. “They do work properly, but the older the fleet gets, the more you end up spending on maintenance and it’s more likely that the buses will have to keep coming off the road for repairs. It makes sense to purchase and phase in new buses.”

Barna agreed that the savings from having new buses will help save the district money in the long run.

“These new buses will really help us mitigate general fund use for bus maintenance,” Barna said. “It will allow us to take those general funds not used on bus maintenance and put them into the classrooms.”

Also at the meeting, Barna presented a preliminary budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

According to the projected budget, DPS will see an increase in per pupil funding from the state from $8,362 to $8,445, which would raise revenues by over $1.6 million for the year.

Barna said the $83-per-pupil increase is tentative and is a “conservative” estimate based on preliminary budget reports released by the state, but that even if the district gets that amount, a majority of the extra revenue would go toward other expenses.

“When you factor in additional costs, such as health insurance subsidies for our employee groups, improvements for buildings not covered by the SMART bond and other expenses we may only receive a bump of about $100,000 to our fund balance,” Barna said.

He said he will continue to monitor budget discussions in Lansing and will update the board as more information becomes available.

(Bob Oliver can be reached at boliver@bewickpublications.com.)

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