Back of the bus, funding goes

May. 30, 2013 @ 09:33 PM

A provision in the state Senate budget plan could have broad implications for Thomas Built Buses, one of the city’s largest employers, by cutting the number of school buses replaced in North Carolina.
The more than $20 billion Senate version of the state budget cuts spending for school bus replacements by 42 percent, or $28 million, for the new fiscal year that begins July 1. The money would be saved by changing the amount of time a school bus can stay on the roads.
“Currently the law requires North Carolina’s local school districts to replace their school buses after logging 200,000 miles or reaching 20 years of age, whichever comes first,” reports the N.C. Justice Center out of Raleigh. “As a cost-savings measure, the 2013-15 Senate budget proposal pushes that replacement target up to 250,000 miles; the 20-year limit would remain in force.”
The Senate budget would appropriate $39.1 million for school bus replacement during the upcoming 2013-14 fiscal year, a cut of $28.4 million. The Senate budget provides for the replacement of 604 buses in the upcoming fiscal year, according to the office Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, R-Rockingham.
“Advancements in modern technology and maintenance allow school buses to operate safely up to 250,000 miles,” according to a statement from Berger’s office provided to The High Point Enterprise.
The Senate version of the budget now is being considered by the state House. When the budget is passed by the N.C. General Assembly, the spending plan goes to Republican Gov. Pat McCrory for his approval or veto.
“The mileage adjustment as proposed by the state will result in fewer buses being purchased over the next several replacement cycles. However, the direct impact to TBB is unknown, as other bus manufacturers will bid on the buses as well,” said Ken Hedgecock, vice president of sales. “There is no guarantee that Thomas will be awarded the business during each replacement cycle.”
Thomas Built Buses ranks as the sixth-largest employer in High Point with nearly 1,300 employees, according to the most recent annual report of the High Point Economic Development Corp.
Both Berger and McCrory have ties to the High Point area. Berger’s state Senate district reaches into parts of northern Guilford County that border the High Point city limit, while McCrory grew up in Jamestown before going to Catawba College, joining the staff of Duke Energy Corp. and becoming mayor of Charlotte.

pjohnson@hpe.com | 888-3528