The Hays USD 489 school board at its next meeting will consider the purchase of three new buses whose bids total about $20,000 under the budgeted amount.
The board will meet at 6:30 p.m. in the Toepfer Board Room of the Rockwell Administration Center, 323 W. 12th.
Russ Henningsen, director of transportation for USD 489, outlined the plans for his department’s needs at the Nov. 4 school board work study session.
The recommended bids for the buses are for a gas route bus for $91,049 and two diesel route buses for $96,469 each, all from Kansas Truck. Midwest Bus Sales and Midwest Transit also submitted bids.
The total of the recommended bids is $283,987 — $20,013 below the district’s $304,000 budget for this year’s bus purchases.
Henningsen said his goal is to trade in buses after about 10 to 15 years, when the district could still get a good value on the vehicles. State law allows a district to keep a bus for 25 years.
“We’re just trying to hit that 10 to 15 years. That was our plan when we started this about five years ago,” Henningsen said of bus replacement schedule.
The district’s oldest bus is a 16-passenger 2001 GMC Collins with more than 131,000 miles. The newest purchases are two 2020 Blue Birds. A 65-passenger bus has 2,581 miles and a 78-passenger bus has 1,305 miles.
The district has been able to sell older buses through the Purple Wave auction site, but for only a few thousand dollars, Henningsen said.
For example, according to the auction site, in May the district sold a 2003 Thomas Built bus for $2,530 and a 2001 Blue Bird for $3,740. In 2018, the district sold two 1997 International buses for $1,925 and $1,815.
As the buses age, it can be difficult to find parts for them, Henningsen said.
Board member Greg Schwartz asked Henningsen what he thought trade-in value of a 10- to 15-year-old bus would be. He said he’d like to see $10,000 to $15,000, depending on the age and mileage on the buses.
“You gotta get into that under 60,000 mile range and 10 years, there’s still some value there. Some districts will take that,” he said.
Schwartz also asked about gas versus diesel engines for the buses. One of the buses purchased last year was a gasoline engine.
“It’s done everything we’ve expected it to do. It’s not the bus to go down the road on an activity trip. It’s made for city driving,” Henningsen said.
The gas bus also warms up faster in winter and gas is cheaper than diesel, he said, although gas mileage is better with diesel.
Schwartz asked about the low number of miles driven on some buses. Henningson explained those are either spare buses or not in good shape.
A 2002 Freightliner Thomas that was driven 470 miles last year is a spare wheelchair bus, he said. It has a total mileage of just under 18,000 and has a passenger capacity of 14 plus four wheelchairs.
The 2001 GMC Collins was driven 2,644 miles last year.
“We don’t use that one either because it’s not in shape to use. It’s a small bus for Head Start,” he said.
A 2004 Thomas with almost 107,000 miles was driven just 1,050 miles last year and is another spare, he said.
“I guess my question is, if they sit that much and we don’t use them, do we need them?” Schwartz asked.
“Yes, we do,” Henningsen said, explaining six of the district’s buses are used for sports and other activities both in and out of town.
The district has eight regular routes, three special needs routes and a couple Head Start routes, he said.
If any of those buses break down, the older buses are available as backups.
“We’re running every day, all day long, weekends,” he said
Superintendent Ron Wilson said he was surprised how much student transportation occurs throughout the day, including work-study students, West Side students, peer tutors and middle school wrestlers taken to the high school for practice, for some examples.
“We’re running all day long, every day,” Henningsen said.
He said one week in October averaged 1,900 miles and 561 passengers a day for route trips and sports.
On route buses alone, the average was over 500 miles and about 325 to 335 passengers per day.
“We can’t really be with less buses than what we have,” he said.
Schwartz asked about replacing the coach bus for activity travel, which the district has not had in recent years. It is something Henningsen said he has looked into in recent years.
Liberal, Great Bend and Garden City do have coach buses, he said. Costs start around $240,000.
“For the needs I have had the less several years, I’ve needed less expensive buses to fill my route problems and some of my activity problems first,” he said.
“If I get the three route buses this year … we’ll get to where we can spend more on our activity buses after this year and upgrade if the board wants to go to those coach buses,” he said.
Also on Monday’s agenda:
• The board will consider transferring the deed of the former Munjor Elementary School to the Salina Catholic Diocese. With the opening of the USD 489 Early Childhood Complex, the year-round infant-toddler program moved from Munjor. The district closed the school due to lack of enrollment in 2006.