BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
The Greene County Commission will only purchase five school buses this year rather than the proposed nine following Monday's meeting at the Greene County Courthouse.
The commission approved in a divided vote the issuance, sale and payment of six-month capital outlay notes for the purchase of three mini buses and two new 78-passenger school buses, with the total cost estimated at just over $500,000.
This will match the annual amount normally spent but will not allow the system to purchase the six, full-sized buses per their schedule.
State law limits the life on buses to 15 years with a possible two-year extension if under 200,000 miles. Mini buses may only be operated for a set number of years and may not be based on mileage.
Director of Schools Dr. Vicki Kirk and Transportation Director Clark Justis explained that three mini buses must come off the routes this year and that the system needs to maintain 11 mini buses with three spares.
The school system proposed this purchase as an addition to the annual purchase of six full-sized buses at approximately $500,000, increasing their total request to nearly $700,000.
Kirk said that all six buses are not vital to the coming year's operations, but cautioned that not keeping to the schedule will result in increased costs in the future.
Commissioner David Crum requested that the Education Committee review the purchase of mini buses and add that schedule to the official county minutes in addition to the full-sized bus schedule.
Payment of the buses occurs through the Education Debt Service Fund, which is a school fund and not a part of the county's General Fund, commissioners noted.
Greene County Budget Director Mary Shelton said that the fund will likely have about a $39,000 deficit this year, pulling the fund's savings just below the $1 million the county likes to maintain.
Had the county approved the purchase of all nine buses, the fund balance would have ended next year around $600,000, she said.
In light of these figures, Commissioner Nathan Holt made a motion that the county amend the proposal to purchase only the three mini buses and two of the full-sized buses.
The vote to amend was tied, with all 21 members present but Commissioner Robert Bird abstaining. Mayor Alan Broyles cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of the amendment.
Voting on the motion, as amended, resulted in a 13-8 vote, with Commissioners Fred Malone, Tim White, Rennie Hopson, Robin Quillen, M.C. Rollins, John Waddle, Bill Moss and Jan Kiker opposed.
Quillen noted for the record that her sister drives one of the mini buses before casting her vote, which County Attorney Roger Woolsey said was not in conflict.
The commission appointed members to the Greene County Board of Equalization for 2013, including the following: Joseph Wildman, Ray Crum, Marc Pillar, Phil Gentry and Wayne Phillips.
Commissioner David Crum noted his relationship to Ray Crum before casting his vote, which Woolsey said was not a conflict of interest.
The commission also approved the following items for the Greene County Road Department:
* 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 the 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 for asphalt and overtime pay.
Finally, the commission signed a World Autism Awareness Day Proclamation.