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South Kitsap School District takes step to address aging bus fleet

Modernizing the bus fleet in the South Kitsap School District has been a challenge for multiple of its transportation directors.

Jay Rosapepe is no different.

But that has not prevented the district’s transportation director, who was hired in July 2011 after Scott Logan left for a similar position in Highline Public Schools, from attempting to address it. SKSD might not face a budget deficit in 2013-14 after suffering through several shortfalls in recent years, but that does not mean the district has enough money to modernize its entire bus fleet.

Instead, Rosapepe is looking for ways to update it.

“What we’re really looking at is trying to find buses from other school districts that are in better shape than what we have now,” he said.

That began in January when SKSD purchased a pair of 15-year-old larger buses for $2,500 from the Bremerton School District. Superintendent Michelle Reid said those buses were newer than 15 large buses, which are Type C and D, in the district.

“Those folks in that department are just champs,” Reid said.

The quest to update the fleet has been a statewide endeavor. Earlier this month, Rosapepe purchased 11 used buses — seven from the Issaquah School District and four from a transportation cooperative that services the Kalama, Woodland, Ridgefield and La Center school districts in the southwest portion of the state. Rosapepe said that purchase will enable SKSD to surplus 13 buses with an average age of 22 years.

Those additions — along with the purchase of four new buses — he said will help the district save money on maintenance. But it won’t solve all of SKSD’s transportation issues. Rosapepe said the district has 24 of 60 larger buses that are older than the depreciation schedule table and that number will increase by four next year. That means the district does not receive state subsidies for those vehicles. The state pays for depreciation on larger buses newer than 13 years old and smaller ones 8 years old or less.

The depreciation payments are supposed to allow SKSD to replace buses on schedule. But Rosapepe said there are a couple of issues with that. He said the state assesses cost for new buses over a five-year span. Rosapepe said that means the state only covers about $95,000 for a new bus that costs $115,000. Also, he said failed levies in 1997 and 2000 put the district behind on the replacement schedule.

SKSD officials tried to resolve some of those issues several years ago by taking out loan payments the district still is paying for. That has resulted in interest payments on loans since 2007. Rosapepe said the loan payment is $260,000 for this school year with the final payment of $30,000 in September.

“We’re going to reach critical mass here at some point,” Rosapepe said.

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