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District to make big bus buy
By the start of the next school year, some Columbus City School district students will ride on shiny new buses to school.
Board members authorized the purchase of 137 buses at a regular board meeting Jan. 20. The total cost of the new buses is $10,509,312.
The purchase is made possible through a $164-million, 1.13-mill bond issue voters approved Nov. 4.
The district transports more than 31,000 students throughout the city daily. Its current bus fleet includes vehicles more than 20 years old with more than 300,000 miles driven. Through the bond money, the bus fleet replacement program includes the purchase of a total of 187 new buses by 2012.
By June, the district will receive 69 model-year 2010 buses, and by December 2010, 68 model-year 2011 buses will arrive in the district. The district will purchase the rest of the fleet by 2012.
Center City International of Columbus won the bid for providing the bus fleet. Each bus will cost about $80,000, according to district spokesperson Jeffrey Warner.
Larry Hoskins, chief operating officer of the district’s business and operations department, said the district could purchase more buses during the first phase of the replacement program due to negotiating prices.
“As you recall, when we began discussions on refreshing the bus fleet, at that time, the information we had at our disposal and based on past purchases, we determined that the district could purchase 60 buses per year for four years,” Hoskins said. “We are asking for the first two years and instead of being able to purchase the original anticipated, we are asking for 137 buses.”
Due to a number of variables, Hoskins said, such as the fluctuating market, the district was able to negotiate prices for 17 buses.
Though the department would have “loved to commit for the entire four years,” Hoskins said, doing so may hurt the district in the long run.
According to Hoskins, beginning in 2011, federal requirements will call for upgrade on district buses across the nation. The buses the district will have in its fleet before 2011, will be “grandfathered in,” Hoskins said.
In other business, the board passed a resolution to issue a series of bond anticipation notes, totaling $164 million, the outcome of a bond issue voters approved in November. According to financial advisor John Adams, a $15 million School Facilities and Improvement bond note was issued in December. The district will issue $120 million by 2009, and in late 2009 or early 2010, the district will issue the last $29 million.
Due to the “tremendous volatility” of the market, Adams said, the district has to play it safe with regards to timing. The first two installments, Adams said, can be converted to a fixed rate if the district issues the bond notes by spring. By stretching out the dates when the bonds are issued, the district has a good chance at obtaining better interest rates.
The bond money will help purchase the new fleet of buses, textbooks, technology improvements, construction and renovation of classrooms and buildings, and security system upgrades.
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