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Voter forum to focus on bus proposal

Orchard Park residents are invited to two public forums Tuesday to learn more about the school district's plan to buy seven new buses.

Superintendent Joan D. Thomas will host sessions at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesday in the board room at the district office, 3330 Baker Road.

The district is looking for voters' permission to spend $446,000 to buy four 65-passenger buses, two 30-passenger buses and a wheelchair van. The money would come from four places: $10,000 from a renovation reserve fund; $240,000 from another renovation reserve fund; $46,000 from a transportation reserve fund; and $150,000 from the general fund.

The two building renovation reserve funds were established in 1997, as part of a $5.2 million bond that voters approved to fix leaky roofs, crumbling mortar and other problems in the schools. The funds were intended to help the district keep up with building needs on a "pay as you go" basis, officials said at the time.

The transportation reserve was established in 1984 to buy buses.

Voter approval is needed to create a reserve fund, and it's also needed to spend the money for any purpose.

Thomas is touting the bus purchase plan as one that would not increase taxes. The $150,000 to be drawn from the general fund would be offset by the money the district saved when bus drivers agreed to a two-year wage freeze, she said.

If voters approve the bus replacement, the state would reimburse 60 percent of the cost. That state money would be folded back into an account to buy more buses. Assistant Superintendent Jeffrey Petrus is hoping to get the district on a 10-year replacement schedule.

The average Orchard Park school bus is 8 years old, with more than 100,000 miles, district officials say.

Residents vote from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Feb. 14 in Orchard Park High School, with parking available in the Freeman Road lot.


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