Merced City School District buying new buses

Local bank bond buy saves money

dyawger@mercedsunstar.comMay 20, 2013 

— Five new school buses will be making the rounds of Merced this fall, replacing vehicles that are 30 years old, each with more than 300,000 miles on its odometer.

The Merced City School District Board of Education voted this week to pay Bus West of Sacramento $724,084 for the 82-passenger Thomas buses. They should be arriving at the end of July so that the drivers and mechanics can be familiar with them by the mid-August opening of school.

In other actions, board members approved refinancing the district's Measure S bond issue, a move expected to save taxpayers more than $1 million over the 10 years remaining on the bond.

Board member Susan Walsh said the purchase will allow the district to replace a half-dozen aging buses in its 35-bus fleet.

"It's time," Walsh said. "We run them hard. We want to make sure we have safe ones for the kids."

Matt Adams, the district's transportation supervisor, said the new diesel-powered buses have lap and shoulder safety belts. Their engines meet the latest emissions requirements.

Like most school buses, they don't have air conditioning.

Greg Spicer, associate superintendent for administrative services, said money for the bus purchases will come out of reserves; about $150,000 had been saved for this purpose since the last buses were bought seven years ago.

"We needed them five years ago," Spicer said. "A regularly scheduled replacement program would have called for two buses to be replaced each year, but we haven't replaced any buses since 2006."

The buses will cost $144,816 each; a higher bid proposal quoted the district a price of $158,715 per bus.

Measure S bonds were authorized by voters in 2003 for new school construction and major remodeling. BVA Compass of Merced purchased the remaining $9.7 million balance.

When the bond refinancing was proposed this spring, only $730,000 in savings had been anticipated, but the BVA Compass deal will generate an additional $300,000 in savings.

Board President Adam Cox said that the district was going to refinance the bonds on the open market until the Merced bank made its offer at a better interest rate.

"It's a great deal, actually," Cox said. "We won't have to hire experts to help sell the bonds."

Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or dyawger@mercedsunstar.com.

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