Horry County school board considers funding to update district’s aging bus fleet

Horry County Schools will get 10 new school buses to begin updating its aging fleet – which includes some buses more than 20 years old that are in use on regular routes – if the Horry County school board agrees to the district’s spending recommendation.

The district asked the board Monday night to use $840,000 of undesignated, unreserved funds to purchase eight buses for use on regular routes and two activity buses. The board is expected to vote on the proposal at its May 19 meeting.

“Our most recent projection indicates that we will have a surplus of $4.5 million, and we’re asking to go ahead and purchase these this year,” said John Gardner, HCS chief financial officer.

The district owns 40 buses, plus six spare buses, for use on established routes. The age of the newest buses is 17 years old, while 35 buses are more than 20 years old. The district wants to cap the age of the buses at 15 years old and will need to buy eight buses per year for five years to bring the fleet’s age down to 15 years old by 2019.

The district also has 59 activity buses. The newest buses are 1 year old, and 21 buses are more than 16 years old. The district wants to eliminate 19 of the oldest buses, leaving the rest of the fleet at 16 years of age, and begin a seven-year replacement cycle that would bring the fleet to under 15 years old.

The new replacement cycle for activity buses would begin in 2014-15 with the purchase of two buses, followed by five buses in 2015-16, three buses in 2016-17, two buses in 2017-18, five buses in 2018-19, three buses in 2019-20 and two buses in 2020-2021. The plan would start over again in 2022.

Board member Karen McIlrath asked if the bus purchases would be new or used buses, as the district’s history has been to buy used buses, many from North Carolina where they already had been removed from that state’s fleet. Gardner said that from now on the district will buy brand new buses, and the board’s approval will allow the district to begin the purchase process. He said he doesn’t know when the new buses could actually be on the road because it would depend on availability and whether they actually have to be built.