The Methow Valley School District received a $35,000 grant to take an older school bus off the road and purchase its replacement.
The award amounted to good money for a school bus that was ready to be surplused, Superintendent Tom Venable said.
“Last time we sold a bus, we got about $1,500,” he said.
The Department of Ecology is spending $12 million statewide to take school buses that are 17 years old or older off the hands of school districts. The older buses emit significantly more pollution than new diesel engines. The buses are then demolished.
The district received Ecology’s payment last month, as partial reimbursement for a new, cleaner-burning diesel bus, acquired on May 30 at a cost of $129,000.
The district so far has replaced seven buses since voters approved a school-bus levy in April 2015. The district collected $800,000 over two years from the property-tax levy, to help pay for the buses. The tax expired after 2017.
The levy was needed at the time to help replace an aging fleet. Before the levy, money that could have gone to student programs was being diverted instead to increasing repair costs, Venable said.
The district intends to keep to a proper bus-replacement schedule, so that another transportation levy isn’t necessary, Venable said. The state reimburses school districts for buses by paying into a depreciation fund for 13 years after the vehicle is purchased.
“With depreciation dollars coming in on a 13-year cycle, we can provide safe, cleaner-burning new buses — which is good for students, staff and the environment, and good for the budget,” Venable said.
Ecology’s school-bus buyback fund comes from a $28.4 million settlement Volkswagen paid for violating the state’s Clean Air Act. The automaker installed software on many of its diesel engines to cheat emissions tests, according to Ecology’s website.
Additionally, the state will receive $112.7 million as its share of Volkswagen’s settlement in a federal lawsuit. The state may use the money to purchase low-emission or all-electric vehicles.
State audits of the school district’s financial records, published May 29, found no problems with the district’s accounting practices during the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years.
“Serving as stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars is a responsibility we take seriously,” Venable said.
The Auditor’s Office reviewed aspects of the district’s bookkeeping generally considered to be at high risk for fraud, including ASB activities, payroll and student enrollment reporting.
“In those selected areas, district operations complied with applicable state laws, regulations and its own policies, and provided adequate controls over the safeguarding of public resources,” the audit report concluded.