Supervisors approve bus funds

Published 6:02 pm Wednesday, January 18, 2017

blic Schools Division Superintendent Dr. Nancy Leonard got some good news from the county’s board of supervisors and school board members Jan. 10. Both boards met then — supervisors in the afternoon and the school board in the evening.

Leonard asked supervisors to release a total of $450,425 for the purchase of five replacement buses. Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Charlotte County would receive a $100,000 rebate for the bus purchases, which will bring the division’s actual cost down by that figure.

“I told both boards, ‘You know your buses are in bad shape if the EPA is willing to pay you to replace them,’” Leonard said.

According to the EPA, the replacement buses are supposed to be equipped with technology that will reduce pollutants linked to health problems, such as asthma and lung damage.

Getting the new buses is just one of the steps in the process. Leonard said the division will also have to take specific steps to dispose of the buses they are replacing.

“They (the EPA) want them to be eradicated,” she said, indicating the federal agency wants to make sure school systems don’t inadvertently hold on to any material that might still be harmful.

The division chose Sonny Merryman Inc., a Virginia company that specializes in buses of various types, as the vendor.

“We did a thorough review and looked at the service piece, too,” Leonard said of the process by which the division made its choice. “Some of the buses will have enhanced features, including things that can deal with side impacts.”

Leonard said she couldn’t say exactly when the new buses will arrive in Charlotte County, but expected Sonny Merryman to provide that answer sometime this week.

She said the EPA’s rebate program is very helpful.

“We are one of only four divisions getting this rebate and the others are much bigger,” Leonard said, noting that the others — Alexandria City, Norfolk and Roanoke County public schools — are much larger than Charlotte County. “As I pointed out to both boards, as a small locality, we needed to apply for this rebate because where we would have gotten the money to buy these buses?”

The largest chunk of money supervisors approved using was $250,000 from the Local Government Investment Pool (LGIP). Another $80,425 is coming from revenue generated by the county’s participation in Virtual Virginia, while $20,000 came from an insurance payout for a totaled bus.

“That will flow through our operations budget,” Leonard said of the pre-rebate payment. “We can cover those funds until the $100,000 is released.”

Leonard said the LGIP includes funds paid back to the county if, at the end of the year, the division has any money remaining after “zeroing out” its budget. The money goes into the LGIP. Leonard said the last check she wrote to the county was $246,000.

She also noted the more than $80,000 from Virtual Virginia, a math outreach program offering advanced placement, world language, core academic and elective courses to students — all online.

Leonard said it offers an additional revenue stream to tap. It’s an example, she said, of “thinking outside the box” when it comes to funding.

Tuesday’s meeting included organization business, electing County Seat District representative Larry Fannon as chairman and Keysville District representative Jay George as vice chair. Members later approved its regular board and budget work session meeting schedules. Leonard also presented an update on the governor’s proposed budget and — following a closed session — voted to approve personnel recommendations and to resolve to follow the Virginia School Board Association’s Code of Conduct.