(KCPW News) A legislative audit of Utah's school buses found the state could save nearly $9.5 million if districts downsize the type of buses in their fleet. Audit Supervisor Brian Dean says districts tend to prefer the more expensive Class D buses, but often don't need them.
"What a lot of districts are doing is they're kind of just blindly buying Class D buses because that's what they've always done," Dean says.
These buses cost $25,000 more apiece than smaller Class C buses, with the state picking up 85 percent of the bill. But the audit found that 95 percent of the large school buses purchased since 2003 were the more expensive Class D bus. The audit recommended districts purchase smaller buses that better fit the number of students who actually ride the bus each day.
But Sen. Howard Stephenson says school districts currently don't have an incentive to buy smaller, less expensive buses.
"There seems to be no disincentive from the Legislature for them to go ahead and keep buying the Class D buses," Stephenson says, "because we're going to reimburse them 85 percent. So, if they choose to pay their 15 percent of that higher cost, they may view that as a real bargain to have the Cadillac, excuse the term, but the higher, unnecessary cost of the higher one, because they're not paying 85 percent of it."
The audit also questioned whether school districts should be allowed to rent their buses to community groups and carry students over state lines. And it criticized the office of education's bus driver standards. Superintendent Patti Harrington says the audit is "troubling."