Superintendent’s Note to the Unatego Community regarding the “Bus Vote” in January 2020

January 2, 2020

Superintendent’s Note to the Unatego Community regarding the "Bus Vote" in January 2020 

On Tuesday, January 14, 2020, eligible voters will be asked to vote yes or no on the following proposition:

"…the Board of Education of the Otego-Unadilla Central School is hereby authorized to lease and expend therefore, including costs incidental thereto and the financing thereof, an amount not to exceed the estimated maximum cost one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000) per year, and for a term not to exceed five (5) years, the following motor vehicles: three (3) large passenger school buses, one (1) medium passenger school bus and one (1) small passenger school bus…" 

The polls will be in the hall outside the Unatego District Office in the Junior-Senior High School building. You can vote that Tuesday anytime between noon until 8:00 p.m. 

Why is it more cost-effective for Unatego to lease rather than purchase buses?

In 2013, the Unatego Board of Education made a commitment to transition from a wholly-owned fleet to a fully-leased fleet of buses over a period of five years. During the 2014-2015 school year, the District leased four buses, with a full extended warranty, for a period of five years. Each subsequent school year, the District has been leasing, with voter approval, four or five buses per year. During the 2020-2021 school year, the first four buses leased in 2015 must be returned to the dealer and will need to be replaced in the District fleet. Each year hereafter, the District will replace four or five buses as their leases (and warranties) expire.

There are several reasons why we now lease, rather than purchase, our buses. First, each bus costs more than $100,000, and were it necessary to purchase four or five buses, we would need to bond for $400,000 or $500,000 each year, with that bond to be repaid over a five-year period. Leasing requires only a fraction of the funding required to purchase. Second, leasing buses with an extended warranty reduces the District’s maintenance costs significantly, as we only pay for "wear and tear" items. Finally, leasing ensures that all the vehicles in our fleet are less than five years old, which reduces the need for body work, engine overhauls, and transmission service. Most importantly, we take the safety of our students very seriously and newer buses are safer. 

Why does the District need to lease five new buses?

To replace the buses going ‘off lease’ and to replace the aging buses currently owned by the district. If we maintain this annual rotation schedule, the impact to taxpayers will not increase significantly and we will continue to generate NYS Transportation Aid to cover 90% of the cost of the leases.

Why do we need so many buses when our enrollment is down?

First, even though our enrollment has declined in recent years, ridership has remained relatively steady at 630 students transported each day. We currently have 12 in-district routes and 8 out-of-district routes, necessitating 18 daily runs, up from 16 in 2014. It should also be noted that our district covers 186 square miles. In order to keep student transport time to an hour or less, we need to maintain our current routes.

Our fleet currently consists of 24 buses, 20 of which are leased (14 large, 6 small). Four other "spare" buses, 2 small and 2 large, are owned but are requiring increasing maintenance, because they are at least six years old with 200,000 or more miles. These spares are necessary due to routine bus maintenance, NYS DOT inspections, and extracurricular or sports trips. As we move forward, we will surplus our remaining owned fleet, replacing the spare buses with leased and warrantied vehicles. 

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