Board mulls buying buses

December 13, 2000

Board mulls buying buses

By TARA REILLY / Staff Writer

The Washington County Board of Education claims it can save a significant amount of money by purchasing its own school buses rather than paying contractors for their service.


The news came at a meeting Tuesday afternoon with the Washington County Commissioners.

Chris South, the School Board's director of finance, said the school system pays $8,400 a year for 12 years to its 63 school bus contractors. Contractors use the payment, called a per vehicle allotment, to purchase their own buses. The board then works out an agreement with the contractors to provide school transportation service.

Over the 12-year period, the School Board claims the per vehicle allotment adds up to $100,800 per bus. By law, buses can only be used to carry students for 12 years.

South, on the other hand, said the School Board can buy its own buses for about $54,000. With finance charges, the cost of one bus would come out to about $67,000.


Overall, the board owns 114 buses. It would cost the board more than $4 million to buy those 63 buses.

"They are making money on buying a bus," said County Commissioner Bert Iseminger of the contractors. "They're making 6 percent a year for 12 years that we're paying them."

Two contractors, however, didn't agree with the board's claims.

Todd and Lisa Hoffman, who own two buses, said after the meeting that they didn't agree with the costs presented and that the School Board drafted the report without consulting with the contractors.

Todd Hoffman said they didn't even know the board was making the presentation until they were informed by County Commissioners.

"We're definitely not happy with these numbers," Todd Hoffman said. "We gave absolutely no input in this analysis. This is a 100 percent Board of Education analysis."

The Hoffmans said the School Board's report leaves out expenses the school system would pay if it purchased 63 buses instead of using some contractors. Those expenses, which contractors have to pay themselves, include repair work, housing for buses and a list of other costs. The Hoffmans said the expenses are often high.

The Washington County School Bus Contractors Association has stated that its service ends up costing less than what the Board of Education would pay if it owned all of its buses.

Contractors also drive longer bus routes because they're stationed in the outlying areas. Most of the county-owned buses have routes within or near Hagerstown city limits.

Todd Hoffman said he'd like the contractors to draft their own report and make a presentation to the board.

"It seems to me that it would be a lot cheaper for the county to buy the buses at $54,000 a year," Iseminger said. Commissioner William Wivell wasn't certain the county could afford the cost.

"I don't think we have $4 million."

Schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett said if the county ends up buying the buses, he hopes the contractors would continue to drive them.

"We have a good relationship with the contractors, but we're looking at balancing the funds," Bartlett said. "But we'd love to have these contractors remain with us."

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