The wheels might stop turning for six buses in the Williamsburg-James City County school division.
Recently, information was presented before the WJCC school board in regards to buying six new school buses for the division, according to the meeting’s agenda. Each bus will cost $109,758, totaling at $658,548.
A transfer of funds from instructional salary and benefits and transportation benefits was requested to pay for the buses. If the proposal is approved, $378,548 would be transferred from instructional salary and benefits and $280,000 would be transferred from the transportation benefits budget.
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Marcellus Snipes, senior director for operations for the district, said when planning the operating budget for the year in the fall, there is room for those transfers because items like textbook purchases, salaries or new bus purchases are determined toward the end of the year.
The six buses will not be additional to the fleet, but instead will replace six buses that were bought around 2004, Snipes said.
That’s routine for the school division after the Virginia Department of Education suggested in 2010 buses be replaced after being in use for 15 years, Snipes said. WJCC developed a replacement plan that suggests replacing 10 school buses annually.
Snipes said the number of buses is a suggestion, but each year is determined by analyzing which buses in the fleet need to be replaced.
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At 19,000 miles on average annually for each bus, vehicle conditions are expected to deteriorate. To stay ahead of any issues, each of the 130 buses in the fleet are inspected by a maintenance team every 45 days to ensure the bus is operational, officials said.
At some point, the costs to repair the bus might outweigh the cost to replace, Snipes said, and that’s when it is decided to retire the vehicle.
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When a school bus is set to be replaced, the county will sell them on surplus, Snipes said. This doesn’t mean the county is making a profit. Snipes said the buses most likely will sell at a reduced price because most other school divisions looking to purchase buses want new ones.
The six new school buses will be equipped with the technology to participate in the Here Comes the Bus app as well as have heating and air, Snipes said. He added when the district is shopping for new buses, technology is in the forefront of the decision.
Snipes said school buses equipped with stop-arm cameras are also considered highly valuable for the district because there have been severe issues with cars not stopping when a bus is transferring children.
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“Every time we look at the bells and whistles, we think about if it is something we could use,” Snipes said. “We don’t want to spend the money on an item and then not use it.”
The school board is still considering the proposal and will make a decision during the next meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday at the Stryker Center in Williamsburg.