Budget, Audit, Finance & Facilities Committee Meeting
Wednesday, February 15, 2012 11:00AM
Robert R. Freeman Administrative Center
Administrative & Instructional Complex
Present on panel: Edler, Cunningham, Womack, Atkinson, Jester (from L to R)
B. Discussion Items
1. Proposed Budget Meeting Calendar
2. Natural Gas Buses
David Gilmore presented an overview of options to the committee that would allow DCSS to start utilizing school buses that run on compressed natural gas (CNG). The CNG buses would have a longer life span (14 vs. 10 years) than conventional buses and would cost less in fuel than a transit bus (described as similar to a MARTA bus). Fuel cost for one bus annually (on average) is $7,212 vs. $5,392.56 for CNG bus.
Jester mentioned that McChesney had asked at a prior meeting about the possibility of converting existing buses to a CNG engine. Gilmore confirmed that it would be cheaper than purchasing a new bus, but there are currently no grants he is aware of that would help to offset the costs. It costs about $45 – $50K per bus to convert to CNG.
Cost savings estimated to be $2,479.85 per bus over the expected 14 year life span. Womack mentioned that the cost savings would not be realized until about 10 years.
Gilmore stated there are not any converted buses on the roads today that they could take a look at. Marietta City Bus has 3 CNG new buses running right now. They are looking at adding fueling stations, which DeKalb currently does not have. He stated that there was a fueling station in the works for the “78 Corridor” so the busses could be stationed at the DeKalb Administrative Complex and re-fuel before or after they run their routes.
Jester asked to confirm that the state money we get is only for new buses. Gilmore agreed. Jester asked if Gilmore would send inventory of all current buses to her. He agreed. Stated that we have total fleet of 900 buses, about 860 on the road as others are in various states of disrepair. About 50% of our buses are over the 10 year mark, meaning they are running past their life expectancy. There is a need to replace new buses for old buses on a regular basis, but due to shortcomings in the budget, this has not been done according to any sort of schedule. SPLOST III had three different allocations for buses, but SPLOST IV funds are not yet available.
State gives $75K roughly per bus. The cap for purchase is $76,219.50 / ea. Total we receive currently is $533,000.
Cost of a transit (like MARTA) diesel bus is $113K vs. $155K for a new CNG bus.
Womack mentions that even with the cost savings backed out, CNG appears to still be $20 – $25K cost prohibitive. He states that until we know more about any grants, if the federal government will subsidize, we are at a stand-still.
Current fleet includes Blue Bird, Thomas and RUSH/Nally/International. Gilmore has received information only from International regarding conversion products.
Atkinson: Can we get more information? Sounds like we need more study on the options.
Cunningham: How much did we get from SPLOST III? Gilmore: $12 million. Cunningham: Was that a supplement to the state allocation? Gilmore: Yes, it would be, but at the time there was no state supplement available. Cunningham: So, we could have used that SPLOST money toward CNG buses at the time, but we didn’t, right? Gilmore: Right. Cunningham: Can we use SPLOST money differently this time? Gilmore: Need to look at it.
Atkinson: We need to look at the age of current inventory. When does the window to apply for the state money end? Gilmore: It is a 3-year window. Ends at the end of 1014. Atkinson: So, we can wait and come back to this.
Edler: We need to consider what programs we have and which ones require transportation. There is some inequity now. We offer programs, like at magnet schools, that are available only to those who can afford to travel, afford their own transportation.
Womack: Need to be cautious. Those types of schools were taken out of the transportation funding to help the budget. We can’t add things back into the budget until we know what the tax digest will look like. The county can’t take another tax increase on top of the 28% increase we just had by the county.
Cunningham: Make sure we are working with the county as far as price, as far as employment. We need to be the frontrunners on this.
Gilmore: Marietta City Bus doesn’t pay market price like what he was quoting. Government pricing on fuel is better. They get $3,572.57 in savings = $50,015.97 per bus for 14 year span.
Womack: Myself and Mr. Cunningham co-chair government relations. Keep us informed. Work with Atlanta Gas Light for pricing.
Jester: Gilmore to report back by March 8 or March 22 meeting with firm numbers.
3. Cell Tower Funds Allocation
Womack opens discussion by stating that when the cell tower proposal first came to them, it included a 60 / 40 % split of the monthly revenue, with 60% going to the school and 40% going to the general fund for schools without towers. He mentioned that “some board member” somehow confused matters and it now appears that the final contracts are not reflective of this original split and this subject is not anything that they had discussed.
Jester inputs that she does not ever recall discussing that split during the vote either, but they could go back and look at it.
Womack wants to clarify what was discussed and agreed upon, because he has now heard that the contracts came back with only 25% going to the school. Some of his constituents are mad about it because they believe the schools with the towers should receive the majority of the money since they are the ones taking on the burden of a cell tower.
Womack: Well, that’s what they consider it. Some of them have made it quite clear that they don’t want it and it will be a burden. That’s how they see it so that’s why I am asking.
He asks Donahue how they had left the item last time when the group discussed a split of the funds. Donahue said they had not decided and he thought that when the time came that it would be decided by the CFO, or the former CFO who was in charge at the time. Donahue: I don’t remember anything about that. Edler: No. Jester: Me either. How much are we talking about? Womack: $450K allocations for the lifetime of the contracts, is that right Mr. Donahue?
Steve Donahue – refers to the contract and states that there is a line item that states $25K is allocated for the breaking of ground at the school. Yes, the 60/40 split was part of the initial proposal (and what was done in Cobb County just prior to T-mobile’s proposal to DeKalb), but there was no indication about a split. He believes Womack is referring to the $25K (not 25%) that is a separate payment that is to be paid upon breaking ground at the school.
Atkinson – We will have to go back and look at the meeting minutes and notes and watch it back if we need to if there is a question about whether what was executed is not what the board voted and agreed on. We would have to make it an Action Item here first and then make it an Action Item for the board as a whole if we see something that we need to vote on again or discuss in order to make it right.
Edler – I believe we did discuss it and we determined that the one-time payment would go to the school’s PTA or PTSA, not the school. I don’t agree that it needs to be brought up again. I think it was pretty clear.
Atkinson – We would need to bring this up under a Committee of the Whole.
Womack – I disagree totally with what Ms. Edler said. I think we assigned the money to the local school.
Jester – when you say to the school, do you mean the school and NOT to the PTA? From T-mobile directly or would DCSS act as a middle man?
Donahue – No, we are the middleman and that’s why we had not decided it, yet.
Cunningham – Wait just a moment here. I do remember discussing it and we decided it was going to go to the PTA. I mean, this whole thing went by us a little fast. That’s one of the reasons I was okay with it – because of the money going to help the PTAs, not to mention that some of the schools actually need the towers to get the, um, wireless.
Donahue – The $16,800 annual rent lump sum has not been codified. It’s likely that the Finance area is the one that reallocated it.
Edler – If there is any “burden” it would be the liability and that is not a school specific issue, it’s a matter for the school system. Therefore I think we decided the school system should get the funds. If we allocate $25,000 to the schools, are we going to take $25K back out of their operating budget from someplace else? I mean, there are other schools that could probably really use some of that money.
Donahue – Can I finish? I had a little more here.
Atkinson – Oh there’s more. By all means…
Donahue – Then there is the amount of the co-locator dollars. It is another $25K to go to the school or PTA for every co-locator and each tower can accommodate up to 4 co-locations per site. The additional lease revenue is $4,800 per year.
Edler – What happens to that $25,000 if there is litigation?
Womack – Well, that’s another thing entirely
Atkinson – I think you need to be careful if there is any litigation pending because if you give that money to the schools, I imagine they are going to spend it fairly quickly. And, if something happens that we have to pay that money back, where are you going to get it?
Edler – You’ll have to take it out of their allotment of funds somehow.
Atkinson – Well we will have to go back and take a look at all of this, so I think for now that’s about it unless Mr. Donahue has anything else? Donahue – that’s it.
Atkinson – does anyone else on the board have anything to add for today?
Cunningham: Would like to open an issue perhaps for next meeting. There may be an issue or concern about the landscaping and cleaning at some of the schools, even the newer schools.
C. Citizen Comments
(1)Get the Cell Out – Atlanta: There was an initial amount of $2K per school upon signing of the contract. Did that amount get allocated? Is that something you need to talk about?
Womack: We’ll have to bring that up at another time.
Briarlake parent: We do not want the tower or the money. If you can, please give both to a school that might want the tower for the technology or need the money. Respectfully ask for school to be removed from the list.