Thousands of Clear Creek ISD students rely on school buses every day to get safely to and from the 44 campuses spanning across 13 cities in Galveston County and Harris County.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, school buses are one of the safest ways to get students to school. But when buses surpass the 200,000-mile mark, their reliability can begin to come into question.
This year, the district’s transportation department began with a budget of $881,052 allotted toward repair parts, vehicle maintenance and vehicle supplies. To date, the district has already exhausted $409,687 of its annual budget on parts maintenance, and supplies for buses and white fleet vehicles, said Paul McLarty, deputy superintendent of business and support services.
“Maintenance takes place every hour of every day,” McLarty said. “Our mechanics work two shifts, early and late, so from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m., maintenance is being conducted.”
During the summer, the majority of the bigger maintenance projects take place when buses are not being utilized as much, he said.
If voters approve a $487 million bond in May, replacing 75 buses with more than 200,000 would be a small portion of the $20.8 million in safety improvements district officials are planning to make.
“On some of these buses, it’s not just a straight 200,000 miles,” said Ezell Brown, director of transportation. “Some may have had their engine replaced on other significant work done.”
Most districts use 250,000 miles as a standard for bus replacement. If Clear Creek ISD adopted this for its fleet, the district could add at least 37 additional buses to the total count.
Currently, the maintenance needs on Clear Creek ISD’s aged buses range from safety upgrades to motor replacements.
The proposed bond would result in a $0.035 tax rate increase. This would equate to a $5.47 per month increase for a homeowner of a median home valued at $223,635.
If the bond were to pass, the district would fund $7.9 million in school bus replacements. That includes 30 Compressed Natural Gas, or CNG, buses and 45 diesel buses, eight of which are used specifically for special needs students, said Paul Miller, director of facility services.
In total, Clear Creek ISD has 292 school buses in its fleet. Of those, 75 are on the upwards of 15- to 25-years-old.
To help offset some of those costs, the district often turns to grants to help fund bus replacements.
In order to do so, each time the district applies for a grant, officials must prove that Clear Creek ISD meets the eligibility for each item. That can range from old diesel buses, to certain year models, or even engine hours, McLarty said.
“Once we prove we meet the standards, we are approved for a percentage of the grant,” he said. “At that time, we must purchase buses first using our general or capital funds.”
Then, once the district purchases and receives the new bus, officials must prove that the old buses that were qualified by the grant were destroyed in order to be reimbursed, McLarty said.
For more information on the Bond 2017 Referendum, click here.