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D-427 OKs loan to replace school buses

SYCAMORE – Sycamore School District 427 leaders decided to replace school buses again this year after suspending the district’s fleet rotation program during tight budget years.

Sycamore School District board members approved a loan Tuesday from National Bank and Trust to replace six of the district’s 41 school buses with year-old buses that cost $76,689 each. The school district will receive a $460,134 check from the bank in June.

The district will repay the loan in five years using money in its transportation fund, District Superintendent Kathy Countryman said.

Kreg Wesley, director of operations for District 427, said district leaders try to keep the fleet on a five-year rotation, replacing some of the buses each year so that no bus has been in the fleet for more than five years.

“It’s unsafe to keep buses that are too old or have too many miles,” Wesley said.

The average mileage on the buses being replaced is about 80,000 miles, Wesley said.

District leaders decided to buy year-old buses from Midwest Transit Equipment instead of new buses because they thought that was more affordable, said Director of Finances Nicole Stuckert.

The district took a hiatus from replacing school buses between 2009 and 2012 because of the poor economy and decreased state funding. Officials used to replace a bus as soon as it was five years old, but now, there are four school buses older than six years old that are prone to maintenance issues, Wesley said.

Ideally, the district would have replaced 10 buses instead of six, Wesley said.

“Are you going to lay off teachers or look at reducing the fleet rotation?” he said. “If a bus gets too expensive to run, it comes at the top of the list to trade in.”

Extra buses are needed to run the school district’s 31 routes a day in case a bus breaks down, Wesley said.

The year-old buses will be used during the 2014-15 school year. The six old buses will likely be traded in out-of-state to a place with a warmer climate, Wesley said.

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