City Approves Purchase of Buses, Textbooks with Unexpended School Funds

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(Gregory Connolly/WYDaily)

The Williamsburg City Council voted unanimously to support the Williamsburg-James City County School Division’s proposal for using unexpended funds from fiscal year 2015 to purchase new textbooks and replacement buses.

The vote comes a month after the James City County Board of Supervisors approved the textbook purchase — new social studies textbooks had not been adopted since 2006, school officials said — but unanimously agreed to postpone a vote on the bus purchase, as members did not feel they had enough information about an immediate need the buy more buses.

The school division would use $1,279,823 in unexpended school funds to buy eight replacement buses, one new bus for the New Horizons Regional Education Center and new textbooks. The unspent funds are available due to budgeted expenditures that cost less than anticipated, such as electrical services and salary attrition.

Through its cost-sharing agreement with James City County, the city is responsible for $123,887, or 9.68 percent of the total cost.

The school division’s bus replacement schedule recommends swapping out nine buses annually, but during the Oct. 13 Board of Supervisors meeting, WJCC Chief Financial Officer Christina Berta said purchasing nine buses using the unexpended funds is an opportunity to “accelerate” the replacement schedule.

Vice Mayor Paul Freiling commended the school division for choosing to use the unspent funds on purchasing buses, arguing it is the city’s “obligation” to transport children to and from school and the aging bus fleet puts pressure on the city to take action.

“If we don’t really start to move on the replacement of these buses, we’re going to get so far behind the curve that it’s going to be hard to catch up,” Freiling said. “That use of the money makes perfect sense.”

While the Board of Supervisors requested a plan for how the buses would support the school division’s transportation needs, City Council Member Judith Knudson said the school division has already expressed the need to both governing bodies in previous meetings.

“The school system laid out very good numbers about the need for the buses. This is just the logical follow-up to that meeting,” Knudson said.

The supervisors voted to revisit the spending plan during the first regular meeting in January. Meeting dates in 2016 have yet to be formally scheduled.