DAYTON, Tenn. - Rhea County Schools officials agreed that they'll have to purchase nine new school buses before the 2011-12 school year begins.
At a school board meeting last week, Director of Schools Jerry Levengood said the new buses are needed to alleviate an issue arising during the school year after the per-bus 200,000-mile legal limit was reached.
Last month, Levengood had alerted the board that the buses would have to come off the roads under state law because of potential safety issues.
"I don't feel comfortable starting another year" with what the county had in use, he said.
The county had two older, surplus buses to use for backup, Levengood said.
Director of Finance Bill Graham confirmed after the meeting that officials will have to buy the buses this year because the purchase was delayed in previous years.
Graham said the nine buses are expected to cost the county $450,000 to $540,000. That money is not in the current county budget, but some is available in a debt services account from fee collections, he said.
At the board's workshop before the meeting, Lamont Singleton, a representative of the Rhea Family YMCA, asked if the county could donate one of its 78-passenger surplus buses to use for transporting students.
Singleton said the Y now has a 66-passenger bus to use for transportation to Bryan College's pool or field trips to the Chattanooga Zoo and three other planned trips within the region.
Board members agreed to donate the surplus bus, in exchange for the YMCA's smaller bus, to allow for more seating for students or chaperones.
Graham later briefed the board about six or seven teachers and administrators who had decided to retire this year.
Board member Bimbo McCawley asked Graham how it would affect the county if "all that could retire" did so.
Graham said, "We'd be hurting," because that could leave more than 30 positions to fill, but that it wouldn't create problems to "pay out" financially.
The board's next meeting is May 13.
Kimberly McMillian is based in Rhea County. Contact her at email@example.com.