Bids to be sought for replacement school bus

This photo shows a front-engine Payette school bus, purchased in 2018. The Payette School District voted on Nov. 9 to allow Transportation Supervisor Steve Phillips to seek bids for a new bus as part of the district’s annual practice of replacing one of its oldest school buses.

PAYETTE — With classes in full swing at the Payette School District, attention turned once again to keeping students mobile during the Board of Trustees’ regular meeting on Nov. 9. During this meeting, the board voted to authorize Transportation Supervisor Steve Phillips to seek bids for a new school bus.

“It’s something we do every year, we look at the school buses,” said Board Chairman Adam Rynearson. “We’re the perfect-size district to rotate one bus a year. Those districts twice our size need two buses, and those smaller than us get to skip a year once in a while.”

Board Clerk Barbara Choate submitted the request on behalf of Phillips, who was not present during this meeting.

“We receive depreciation for our buses, and it’s the only thing that those funds can be used for is the purchase of a new bus,” said Choate. “Last year, the bus that we purchased was $119,000 because it was a travel-pusher bus and they’re considerably more expensive. This year we are asking for a conventional route bus.”

Estimates received by the district place the cost of such a bus at around $95,000.

In a Nov. 17 email, Choate explained that school districts are reimbursed for buses’ depreciation as part of student transportation funding from the state of Idaho.

 Under Idaho Code Section 33-1006, “The state board of education shall determine what costs of transporting pupils, including maintenance, operation and depreciation of basic vehicles, insurance, payments under contract with other public transportation providers whose vehicles used to transport pupils comply with federal transit administration regulations.”

“The bus that we purchased last year added almost $17,000 to our ability to purchase another bus,” added Choate. “We will receive just shy of $70,000  this year to purchase that $95,000 bus.”

Choate referred to the practice of replacing one bus each year as “the most prudent decision.”

Rynearson recalled that at least three years prior, the district’s finance committee recommended skipping a year.

“And then at the end of the year found out how much that cost us, and they said let’s don’t do that again,” said Rynearson. 

“After understanding the cost [of holding onto a bus an additional year], they chose not to skip a year,” Choate explained. “[Maintenance] would have been $13,000 but we have purchased at least one new bus every year since 2008.”

The district has a fleet of 16 school buses, including front and rear engine models. The replacement program sees the oldest bus in the fleet changed out each year.

“They’re still very roadworthy,” Rynearson pointed out, stating that increased maintenance costs drive the district to replace buses as they age.

Trustee Candita Strong moved to approve the bid process, with Trustee Andy Kirkendall seconding. A voice vote to approve was unanimous.

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