ELIZABETHTOWN — Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School District residents will vote on purchasing two school buses in a Feb. 6 referendum.
Scheduled for noon to 8 p.m., the vote will take place in the school’s main lobby.
Two propositions will request permission to purchase a 22-passenger, handicap-accessible school bus, not to exceed $66,500, and a 35-passenger school bus, not to exceed $53,000.
The cost would be taken from the current fiscal year’s fund balance.
The State Education Department would reimburse 63.7 percent of the purchase, allocated annually over five years, beginning in the 2014-15 fiscal year.
Though ELCS enrollment has declined, the area covered by the district has not, ELCS Superintendent Scott Osborne said, and the district’s fleet of buses is aging.
“We cover a vast territory,” he said. “We experience particular challenges with fewer students, but our transportation costs are fixed.”
The district is very focused on preventive maintenance, Osborne said. Even so, Adirondack winters, coupled with salt corrosion and heavy use, take a toll.
“Two of our buses did not pass DOT inspection, and they will be put up for resale toward paying for the new ones,” the superintendent said.
“We would like to put bus number 73 out of service and use the other one as a spare,” he added.
Bus 73 has about 137,500 miles on the odometer, while Bus 70 has registered more than 119,000 miles. The average mileage on the nine buses in the fleet is more than 87,000 miles.
ELCS has cut two regular bus runs, basing its decision on the declining enrollment and actual student ridership, Osborne said in a press release.
This has resulted in longer trips for several pupils, he said.
The district has also beefed up preventive maintenance by maximizing use of computer software to track mileages and service points.
Each month, the School Board is provided with that information, which includes mileage readings, repair costs and overall vehicle conditions.
Osborne said buses are replaced at certain intervals because, as a vehicle ages, maintenance can become more pricey than the cost of replacing it.
Reliability can become an issue, too, he said.
“We’d like to protect the community’s investment in school buses; replacing school buses on a scheduled cycle is part of being fiscally responsible.”
ELCS has made attempts to limit transportation costs by coordinating bus runs to special events or activities with other districts.
It has partnered with Keene Central School for some academic events, Westport Central to attend all-state music functions, Chazy Central Rural School to participate in the Harvard Model United Nations in Boston and with several schools for spring track practices and meets.
“The track team is an excellent example of what we can do for sharing services,” Osborne said. “It’s great to have this spirit of communities working together.”
Outside entities, such as the Youth Commission and churches, also use the buses, paying the district $1.49 per mile.
Email Alvin Reiner: email@example.com.
A public hearing on the Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School District bus vote has been scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 30, in the school's conference room.
To obtain an absentee ballot, call District Clerk Lauri Cutting at 873-6371.
The deadline to submit absentee ballots is 5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 6.
A special-edition newsletter on the referendum was sent to district residents and is available on the School District website: www.elcsd.org.
Only registered voters will be able to vote at the Feb. 6 referendum on the bus resolutions. Qualified district residents can register to vote from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 30, at the ELCS Main Office.
Here are the voter eligibility requirements:
- The person must be at least 18 years old and a district resident for 30 days before the election.
- Any district resident already registered with the Clinton County Board of Elections is automatically eligible to vote in school elections.
For more information, contact the Essex County Board of Elections at 873-3474.