The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, September 22, 2021 1:00 am

EACS scaling back plan for new buses

Cost hike cited during budget meeting

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

East Allen County Schools officials can't say for sure how much the proposed 2022 budget might affect taxpayers' wallets, but one thing is for sure – fewer buses will be bought.

That's because the price of the iconic yellow vehicle is going up, said Pat McCann, chief financial officer.

For this fiscal year, EACS budgeted $113,800 per 78-seat bus – the most common in the district's fleet – but the purchase price was $129,000, McCann said after the board meeting Tuesday.

Vendors told McCann to plan for at least a 7% increase next year, he said, so the 2022 plan calls for 14 new buses at a total cost of almost $2 million. In comparison, 16 buses were originally planned for the upcoming year at about the same cost, according to information presented in 2020.

The five-year bus replacement plan was the subject of a public hearing Tuesday along with other financial proposals, including the 2022 budget.

EACS advertised a $113 million budget and a proposed levy of $28.4 million, up from $25.8 million in 2021.

The district anticipates a tax rate increase of about 3 cents, to 88.8 cents from 85.4 cents, per $100 in assessed value.

Like Northwest Allen County Schools said last week, McCann said EACS won't know the effect on taxpayers until the assess valuation is certified. That happens in the fall, he said.

McCann noted school budgets are crafted with a host of unknowns, including collective bargaining – which is underway – and enrollment.

The official fall count was conducted Friday, but districts are awaiting final numbers from the state.

Preliminary figures indicate enrollment at EACS has grown, Superintendent Marilyn Hissong told the board.

“We're very excited about that,” she said, withholding specifics. “It's actually a pretty significant amount compared to previous years.”

Almost 10,000 students attended EACS last academic year.

Budget adoption is expected Oct. 19.

In other business, the board approved a $5.58 million general obligation bond for districtwide improvements. The projects mostly address roofing needs, McCann said, but also include masonry, asphalt, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning.

General obligation bonds are a common tool districts use to pay for projects outside the operations fund.

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