Dayton school board members clash over decision to buy or lease buses

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Dayton school board members clash over decision to buy or lease buses

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A Dayton Public Schools bus. STAFF

A Dayton Public Schools finance committee meeting Monday evening got heated after members disagreed about how many new school buses to acquire and how to pay for them.

Finance committee Chair Joe Lacey decided to step away as chair for this issue, because he disagrees with the committee’s recommendation to buy or lease as many as 115 school buses.

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“I don’t agree with the position that the finance committee is taking,” the school board member said.

But board member Adil Baguirov said it makes much more sense to lease or finance 110 to 115 new buses. He said this will remedy safety risks and will be a better deal for taxpayers.

“I am a proponent of using the power of financing or leasing to afford a lot of buses at once,” he said. “We have a very old fleet of buses.”

The finance committee proposes leasing or financing 110 to 115 buses, instead of buying 30 new buses, which was the district’s original plan. The district has 200 buses, which have an average age of 14 years old.

The district’s oldest bus is 27 years old.

The district budgeted $2.6 million for 2016-2017 to buy new school buses. The district would be able to acquire about 30 new buses.

But Baguirov said it is cheaper and more advantageous to finance 115 buses at once, instead of replacing 30 buses each year.

Depending on what financing option the board chooses, he said, the annual cost to the district could be between $1.1 million to $2.1 million.

The length of financing period could be five to 10 years. Baguirov said the cost of new school buses is expected to increase significantly in coming years, so this would be a wise long-term investment.

Lacey said he disagrees with this approach and asked to step aside as chair of the finance committee when this proposal is introduced.

The chair of the finance committee must present the resolution to the full board.

“I am not advocating for this, because I think I’ll vote against it,” he said. “I think it’s too many — I don’t think we need 115 buses.”

Lacey said he also does not think it is wise to commit the district to such a sizable purchase at this time.

He said the proposal is an overreaction to news coverage and complaints about the condition, age and other concerns about the buses.

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