JPS Makes Decision On Bus Replacement

The Jamestown Public Schools’ Board of Education has decided that it is time to address the decreasing number of functional buses in its fleet.

On Tuesday, the board approved a resolution to lease-purchase buses and vans at a maximum estimated cost of $795,000 payable over a period of five years. This would allow for the purchase of six full-size school buses and two vans.

According to the resolution, because of the loss of the availability of several school buses, it is necessary to acquire replacements. After an evaluation of financing alternatives, and taking into account these alternatives, it was determined that a lease-purchase agreement was in the best interest of the district.

According to Joe DiMaio, board president, the nature of the resolution allows for the estimated cost to remain outside of the 2013-14 budget and, therefore, eligible for state aid.

“The optimum situation would be to put it in your budget, and then you could incorporate part of it,” said DiMaio. “But when we’re getting less money now than in 2008, this is the next best situation. We’ll let the voters decide, and then we’ll space it out. And we do get aid, so we’re not footing the full bill. The cost sounds expensive, but we will be state-aided on that, although it’s not 100 percent. It’s a way for us to keep our fleet from aging and then, all of a sudden, (putting us) in a big time bind.”

Deke Kathman, JPS superintendent, said that this payment method will be more cost efficient than previous routines.

“In 2012, we budgeted (approximately) $170,000 for the purchase of vehicles, and with that money we purchased one full-size school bus and a couple of vans,” said Kathman. “We get so far behind if that’s the routine. If we only replace one large bus a year, in short order, we’re sucking wind and we do not have an adequate fleet to move the kids. It’s the rust and the chassis and the frames – that’s the problem. And it gets to a point where you can’t repair.”

Also approved by the board was a resolution to sell and dispose of excess vehicles in poor condition due to age, mileage or mechanical conditions.

In other business, the board chose to hold off on its 2013-14 budget presentation until the district receives its final state aid package at the resolution of the state’s executive budget. Kathman reported a $1.96 million gap elimination adjustment, consistent with his presentation at the previous board meeting, but did express some optimism.

“I am encouraged by a couple of developments between the last time and now,” he said. “One is that the Senate has proposed in their House budget bill that $299 million new dollars be added to what the governor proposed for school aid. And the Assembly has proposed $308 million additional dollars. There’s very little distance between those two numbers, and that’s, from a distance, an encouraging development.”

The expectation of the board is that it will be able to present its final state aid numbers at its next meeting on April 9. Any necessary revisions would then be made between then and the following meeting on April 23, on which the board would need to adopt its 2013-14 budget.

Also discussed was a scheduling conflict for Jamestown High School’s 2014 commencement ceremony. The ceremony, which has traditionally been held at Chautauqua Institution’s amphitheater, is currently scheduled for June 26 – which occurs during the first week of the 2014 Chautauqua season. At the preference of the board, it was proposed that JHS’ commencement be moved up a week to the date of June 20 rather than be held at another venue.

Due to state exams being given up to that date – and even some Regents competency tests the following week – Mike McElrath, JHS principal, spoke to the possibility of students walking the stage but being ineligible to receive their diplomas.

“There still could be a student that needs to pass those (RCT exams) the following week for graduation,” he said. “So, the caveat would be that it is possible that there would be some students that would walk the stage that haven’t met all the requirements yet. I would hope that wouldn’t be the case. We’d do all that we could on our end to make sure that we’ve corrected every test, and make sure that we’ve gone through the works with our students – but it is possible.”