BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
The Greene County Budget & Finance Committee will recommend the purchase of nine new school buses to the Greene County Commission this month.
The committee met for seven hours on Tuesday (from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a one-hour lunch break, to consider resolutions proposed for the March meeting of the commission, as well as to continue hearing 2013-2014 budget proposals from department heads.
Among the resolutions considered for recommendation, the committee heard from County Director of Schools Dr. Vicki Kirk concerning the purchase of the new buses.
Kirk explained that the county uses the Education Debt Service Fund to purchase buses each year using six-month Capital Outlay Notes.
Typically, the system would request the purchase of only six buses, but this year three mini-buses have also reached retirement age, the director said.
The cost of replacing the three mini-buses will add approximately $200,000 more to the system's normal annual $500,000 request for bus replacement, for a total up to $697,217.
While state law allows large 78- or 84-passenger buses to serve for 15 years with a two-year extension if under 200,000 miles, the law requires that mini-buses be retired at 12 years.
"When they're done, they're done," she said. "You can't extend them."
It is necessary to still purchase all six of the full-sized buses, Kirk said, because the county purchased 11 buses in 2001.
"We have to do six a year or a big chunk will come," she said.
These six replacements will include the replacement of two 78-passenger buses that will reach 17 years and two 84-passenger buses from 2001 that have 240,000 or more miles on them.
The system plans to remove another six buses from routes to use as spares because they are reaching high mileage and are 14 years old.
The school system is mandated to maintain a number of spare buses in its fleet. The requirement is a necessary precaution against breakdowns of any of the 80-plus buses the system has in operation every day, Kirk said.
"We try to be responsible in the way we cycle these buses in and out," she said.
EDUC. DEBT FUND
Budget Director Mary Shelton noted that the nearly $700,000 figure for these purchases will draw down the Education Debt Service Fund's reserves.
In the current fiscal year, Shelton projected that the fund would receive $2.7 million in revenue against $2.73 million in expenditures, leaving a $30,000 deficit. This would leave the fund balance (savings) at $870,000 at the end of August.
Revenues coming into the fund include portions of the county property tax, sales tax, other local revenues, and up to $250,000 from the school system in an effort to maintain a $1 million fund balance, Kirk explained.
Shelton said that the full $250,000 will be needed from the school system this year, as it was last year.
The budget director said she will likely project the 2013-2014 revenues as flat compared with the current fiscal year's.
This will mean an increased deficit that could draw down the fund's savings to just under $640,000.
Kirk said she hopes to see this yearly deficit turn around in the 2016-2017 fiscal year, when she has projected revenues to meet the annual $2.7 million in expenditures.
In other business, the committee voted to recommend four resolutions for the Greene County Road Department, including:
* budgeting $16,800 from the sale of a surplus paint truck to highway equipment;
* budgeting $8,200 in insurance recovery proceeds from damage during an ice storm to highway equipment;
* budgeting a $230,800 reimbursement from the U.S. Forestry Service for work performed on Viking Mountain Road to asphalt plant operations; and,
* budgeting an $8,485 reimbursement from the Town of Greeneville for repairs made to Kiser Boulevard to asphalt and overtime pay.
Finally, the committee approved three interbudgetary adjustments for the Greene County Sheriff's Department related to changes in personnel and increased costs in maintenance and other items.