The Walker County Board of Education has purchased 13 new school buses. Board members approved the purchase at a meeting on Tuesday for 11 regular buses at $83,746 each and two special needs …
The Walker County Board of Education has purchased 13 new school buses.
Board members approved the purchase at a meeting on Tuesday for 11 regular buses at $83,746 each and two special needs buses valued at $96,000 each.
Special needs buses are traditionally more expensive due to a required power lift, ramp, restraining devices, and other safety measures.
All of the buses will be air-conditioned.
Walker County Schools Superintendent Dr. Joel Hagood told the Daily Mountain Eagle last month that purchasing some new buses would be a necessity. He said school buses are typically only used for a decade, but the school system has had 10 2004 models and two 2000 models still in use.
"Our buses have been let go for so long," Hagood said Wednesday. "My predecessor had borrowed a lot of money, unfortunately, for other things."
If Walker County Schools had been replacing old buses every 10 years, Hagood said the school system could have taken advantage of the Alabama Fleet Renewal Program that helps pay for new buses.
According to the Alabama State Department of Education's website, "There is no requirement to 'retire' school buses after so many years in the state of Alabama. However, most school systems remove their buses from regular service after about ten years.
"The Alabama Fleet Renewal Program provides local school systems funding for each school bus in their fleet that is ten years old or less. This funding is provided for a maximum of 10 years. Over 92 percent of Alabama's school buses are ten years old or less."
Hagood said, "In order for the state to reimburse you for buses you've got to be buying buses, so if you do it right and participate in it, technically, over a period of time, it will pay for itself. The state will reimburse you the money for the buses. But if you're not buying the buses, then you cannot participate in the fleet renewal program."
The school buses recently purchased by Walker County Schools will be paid for with money the school system received through the Education Trust Fund's Advancement and Technology Fund. The school system received $1.9 million through ETF and is required to use the funding for particular needs, such as transportation.
"With this money that we received, we would be foolish not to start replenishing our bus fleet and get ourselves back in line to participate in the fleet renewal process with the state," Hagood said.
An estimated 100 Walker County school buses travel rural parts of the county Monday through Friday.
"In a city school system, their routes are much more confined, geographically. In a county school system, we're much more rural and much more spread out, so we put a lot more miles on them, too, in addition to the wear and tear," Hagood said.
By the 2020-2021 school year, all the new buses will be part of the school system's current fleet, and the old buses will be retired.