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School eyes leasing buses to boost safety, avoid repairs

WARRENSBURG - The Warrensburg Central School Board of Education is proposing a novel idea for their school bus fleet that may save taxpayers money.

The school board is seeking to lease buses rather than own them - and a proposition to solicit a lease agreement for an initial group of three buses will be up for public vote in a special election early next month.

Leasing buses, according to Superintendent of Schools Tim Lawson, will mean school children will travel in newer, safer buses - and costs associated with transportation will be more predictable.

Leasing buses will also eliminate the need to raise $300,000 annually from taxpayers to pay for the up-front expense of purchasing three buses, while waiting for 85 percent state reimbursement that is strung out over a five-year projected lifespan of the vehicles.

"Previously, we've run buses until they drop, they've rusted out and structural members have had to be replaced by the manufacturer at great cost," Lawson said Monday. "With leasing, any rust or other repair issues would be the liability of the manufacturer."

The estimated leasing cost for three buses is expected to be about $48,000, based on a quote from Matthews Bus Co.

The actual amount would be determined by the bidding process, which is up for public vote.

The lease costs would be reimbursed by the state in the year the expense is incurred by the District.

Lawson said the school district is not waiting until the annual school district election in May to hold the vote because school officials need to include firm figures - reflecting either bus leasing or purchase - in preparing the 2010-11 budget which goes before the voters May 18.

The plan, if approved and bids come in as expected, is to lease three additional buses each year until the school's entire fleet of 15 is replaced, Lawson said.

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