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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 12, 2010

In BKW, a reduced bus proposition to go up for vote

By Zach Simeone

BERNE — Berne-Knox-Westerlo will run another bus purchase by district voters next month, with a few differences from the one that residents turned down in May.

The vote on the new $305,000 proposition is set to take place on Tuesday, Sept. 21, at the middle-high school, between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. There will also be a special voter registration on Tuesday, Sept. 14, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the middle-high school auditorium, for BKW residents not currently registered. Absentee ballots may be applied for at the district office. If the absentee ballot is to be mailed to the voter, the application must be in to the district office by 3 p.m. on Sept. 14.

If it’s passed, the purchase won’t affect the tax levy, according to the school board president and business official.

With its original proposition, the district sought to acquire two 66-passenger buses, two 28-passenger buses, and one wheelchair-accessible bus for a cost not to exceed $365,000. Of the total cost, $200,000 was to be covered by funds from the district’s transportation reserve, which held $500,000, and the remaining $165,000 would be bonded over five years.

On May 18, it was voted down, along with the proposed 2010-11 budget. The board subsequently adopted a $19.6-million contingency budget.

Last year, a proposition to purchase three 66-passenger buses and two Chevrolet Suburbans for $368,000 passed with 72-percent approval.

“We’ve removed the one wheelchair bus from the original proposal, but the way we’re funding it is pretty much the same,” said Kevin Callagy, BKW’s business official. “Our state aid back will pretty much match our debt payment for the five years.”

The new proposition would pay an estimated $305,000 for the two 66-passenger buses, and two 28-passenger buses. It would spend only $105,000 from the district’s transportation reserve, with $200,000 to be bonded over five years.

“Our business official felt very strongly that, because new emission standards are going into effect, it would be in the district’s best interest to try and purchase the big buses before the next year,” said Maureen Sikule, BKW’s school board president. “If we put it up next May, we’d be under the new emission standards. And, it’s structured it in a way that there is no impact on the tax levy.” The board was also concerned, she said, that the buses being replaced would not pass state inspection.

Throughout the budget process this spring, district residents heard at school board meetings that this year’s bus proposition was particularly important since the vehicles on the ballot were old enough that the district would be saving money, as these vehicles would not have to be adjusted to meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s new diesel emission standards. David Clark, who works in BKW’s bus garage, estimated then that purchasing these buses would have meant between $7,500 and $8,000 in savings per bus.

Sikule said this week, as other board members had in May, that the bus proposition was voted down due to a lack of communication between the board and its constituents.

“I think everyone was focused on the budget and the increase in the tax levy,” said Sikule of district residents. “So, I think there was a feeling on the board that we didn’t communicate well with the public on the bus proposition, as far as there not being an effect on the tax levy.”

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