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Posted: 10/30/13

BUSES ON THE BALLOT. Above, residents listen as Romeo Superintendent Nancy Campbell explains the details of the $5.1 million bus bond proposal during a community forum held at the Romeo High School media center on Oct. 23. The proposal will be on the Nov. 5 ballot.

(Observer photo by Chris Gray)

Voters to decide on $5.1
million RCS bus bond

Observer Staff Writer
      Residents will determine the fate of a $5.1 million bond proposal that would provide new buses for Romeo students.
       Romeo Community Schools is seeking millage increase to replace all 54 buses over the next nine years. The proposal will be on the Nov. 5 ballot.
       The bond would cost $1 per every $1,000 of a home's taxable rate. For instance, a homeowner with a home valued at $200,000 would average $40 a year, according to bond proposal literature.
       A community forum held by school administrators on Oct. 23 revealed new information regarding the upcoming proposal. Of the 5,400 students currently enrolled in Romeo Community Schools, administrators said 4,400 of them use the buses.
       Superintendent Nancy Campbell said taxes would go down if the bus bond wasn't approved, but said taxes will not increase above their current levels if the bond passes due to current debt falling off.
       "I'm not asking any more of you, I'm just asking if you can continue to pay what you're paying," she said.
       The district's transportation department reported that 32 of the 54 buses are in need of replacement in the next three years, all of which are 2003 models or older. This would cost $2.8 million to $3.1 million.
       The remaining 22 buses would be replaced over the remainder of the nine-year bond at a cost of $2 million.
       The grand total for replacing all 54 buses is valued at $4.9 million, with buses costing anywhere from $90,000 to $110,000. Executive Director of Business Affairs David Massoglia said the $5.1 million figure was used to accommodate for bond fees and inflation when buying buses in the future.
       Washington Township resident Bob Allard asked whether buses could be refurbished, much like semi trucks are restored and put back on the road.
       "I'm sure I'm not the only guy who has thought about refurbishing the buses," he said.
       Transportation Director Frank Rydquist said he has not heard of such services, but added it would not be cost effective since safety standards for buses are updated yearly.
       "It gets to be over a significant amount of money," he said.
       Campbell said if the bond passes, 12 buses would be ordered as quickly as possible to replace the worst buses, and would be delivered in February at the earliest. Administrators indicated the last time the district purchased a bus was in April 2010, which was a 2008 bus that holds 84 passengers.
       The average age of the buses is 11 years with the 10 oldest buses averaging more than 184,000 miles. The district spends about $300,000 a year on maintaining the buses.
       "When I'm starting to put transmissions in that is really not a normal maintenance feature, and I'll do that regularly," Rydquist said. "It's just really not in the norm."
       The oldest buses are two 1998 models that were bought from Utica schools in 2009, while the youngest are 2010 models bought in August 2009.
       In the spring, state officials identified 15 Romeo buses with a red tag, meaning they need to be removed from the road. The predominant issue causing the warnings was rust.
       Campbell said the replaced buses would be sold or salvaged for spare parts, while the money saved on repairs would go back into the district. Residents suggested the district take that money and create a bus fund, thereby having a pot of funds to dip into when replacing buses after the bond.
       Campbell said she liked the idea of starting a new fund. She said the prior bus replacement schedule fell to the wayside due to the downturn in the economy.
       She said the proposal is the only issue on the ballot, so the district will have to pay $30,000 to $35,000 to hold the election.
       Further information regarding the buses and the bus bond can be found at

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