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New school buses join fleet

It’s been a long time since Halifax County has had the scent of “new” in their buses.

Six of the 11 brand new buses were delivered Monday to Halifax County Public Schools Transportation Department.

According to Transportation Coordinator Earl Womack, the remainder of the new school buses and two special education buses were to be delivered by mid-week.

Halifax County School Board members approved the purchase of the new buses in March with the approval of their budget.

During the May meeting, supervisors voted unanimously to provide a pledge of moral obligation to pay $785,027.50 to SunTrust Bank for the purchase of nine 2013 school buses for Halifax County Public Schools should the school board fail to make the payment over the seven-year financing arrangement.

Unlike in previous lease-purchase arrangements, School Director of Finance Jay Camp said this time in order to enter into a lease purchase agreement for the buses, the bank required the board of supervisors to provide the moral obligation pledge.

Camp told board members the school system found out about a “considerable price differential” in nine schools buses and immediately sought a loan.

“When the price on these school buses came up, it was one we just couldn’t refuse,” Camp said, “because it’s a considerable savings of about $10,000 per bus.”

The finance director said he contacted SunTrust Bank about combining this lease purchase agreement with a previous loan already secured to purchase two special education buses and five school vehicles.

However, he was notified that for this transaction the bank would require the moral obligation pledge.

Camp said the rationale behind requiring the pledge was due to the economic situation with tobacco and textile jobs diminishing in the area and school enrollment declining.

On the previous loan arrangement for the two special education buses and five vehicles, Camp said he had secured a 1.71 percent fixed interest rate.

Although the purchase of these nine buses enhances the school’s fleet, Camp told supervisors the school system still needs more buses.

“This is just a dent,” he said, adding with the savings they are seeing in this arrangement, the school system may be able to purchase another one to two buses.

“We do need buses. We are breaking down. This will put a dent in our needs,” he added.

Camp noted the last purchase of used buses occurred in 2008.

Womack said he and Director of Transportation Dave Guill were beginning to look at bus routes as the new special education buses hold more students and will allow for possibly five wheelchairs compared to the older buses. 

“This is good for us,” said Womack.