BY SARAH GREGORY
The Greeneville Board of Mayor and Aldermen has agreed to fund half the cost of three buses needed by the Greeneville City School System for the coming school year.
Aldermen also approved a bus replacement schedule that will provide funding for one new bus per year for the next 16 years.
Funding for the $241,000 purchase price of the three buses has been a source of concern for Greeneville and the City School System during the budget development process.
At the June 18 meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, discussion centered on how to fund the purchase and whether the money should be borrowed or could be paid from the fund balance.
One thing that was clearly established at that meeting was the desire to have an actual plan put into writing so that an agreement would be clear.
In addition to approval to provide half of the necessary funding for the three buses, such a plan was presented and approved by the board in a special called meeting Monday afternoon. (Please see related article on Page ?????)
City Administrator Todd Smith presented a revised fiscal year 2014 budget that included half of the funding for this year's purchase -- $120,500.
"I want to propose a compromise," Smith said of the decision to fund half of the purchase cost and establish a long-term plan.
"I think it lays out a plan for the future for the buses that, I think, puts us in pretty good shape," he said.
The bus replacement schedule, approved unanimously by aldermen, provides estimated funding for one bus each year for 16 years.
The period of 16 years was chosen because it is the average time a school bus can be used and because it would nearly replace the school system's entire bus fleet.
"If you look at the cost to do that over a 16-year period, it comes out to about $96,000 a year to fund that," Smith said.
"It's approximately a bus a year," he explained.
Smith also told the board that beginning with the fiscal year 2015 budget, he'd like to put those funds in "as recurring money since we know every year" how much will be provided to fulfill the agreement.
The schedule adopted by the board on Monday calls for $96,187.50 to be provided each year through 2029.
The language adopted in the resolution says that the "Board of Mayor and Aldermen recognizes the need for a written plan to assure safe, suitable, and compliant transportation for children attending Greeneville City Schools."
It also says, "the Town of Greeneville believes such a plan is in the best interest of the town in order to take a proactive stance for future planning and budgeting."
"We're talking about the impact," said Alderman Darrell Bryan. "We're just spreading it out a bit more, which helps us. Then the schools will know what's coming, too."
Greeneville CIty Schools Chief Financial Officer Nicole Buchanan said such an agreement would help solve the issue of funding buses for the system.
"We're trying to make it into one annual payment," she said.
"Say there's one year we have no [need to purchase a] bus, but you have this schedule as an annual payment to us. We would commit it [that year's bus funding] to our fund balance. Say there's a year we've got three buses [to purchase]. We would be using what we committed, plus some of our fund balance. It helps even it out," she explained.
In addition to recurring funding for bus purchases, Smith proposed that another $82,000 provided to the school system that had not been designated as recurring funds be added as such in future years.
The Town originally provided the funds, which had not been designated as recurring, for the purpose of hiring a new teacher to be compliant with state-mandated teacher/pupil ratios.