Voters in the Oologah-Talala school district will decide a $400,000 transportation bond March 5.
The bond money will be used to purchase two or three new buses and two or three new Chevy Suburbans.
Superintendent Rob Armstrong said the bond money is necessary to upgrade an aging fleet.
“We need to continue to update the fleet,” Armstrong said. “Our district is 177 square miles and we need the safest, most efficient vehicles to transport our students.”
Oologah has eight 1991 model school buses that are high mileage. One of those buses has 164,000 miles and still runs a daily route.
Assistant superintendent Jerry Rutledge said the district is having more and more mechanical problems with the 22 year-old buses.
“We don’t send them out unless we have to. We use them as sparingly as possible,” Rutledge said.
Seven of the eight 1991 model buses are full size. They have an average mileage of 176,000.
“We’re doing the best we can with what we’ve got. We do our best to keep them in good running condition but we do have breakdowns,” Armstrong said. “We use our newer buses on longer activity trips. When we have kids going on trips and getting back at midnight, we want them on the most reliable bus possible.”
The $400,000 bond package will not raise property tax millage rates. Armstrong said the rate would remain at 14.33 mills.
“People want their taxes to stay the same so they can plan ahead,” he said. “We don’t really want to let our millage go down because as needs arise it makes it more difficult if people see it as a tax increase.
“With district growth and unfunded requirements, maintaining our bonding capacity is critical.”
Armstrong said a new school bus costs approximately $100,000 depending on the options. A special education bus can cost $120,000 to $130,000. Armstrong said the district also needs to trade in a few Suburbans that are high mileage.
He said the district should see fuel cost savings because the newer vehicles will be more fuel efficient.
Erna Doshier has been Oologah’s fleet manager for the last 45 years. Armstrong said he trusts Doshier’s judgment when he recommends buying new vehicles.
The school bond issue requires a 60 percent supermajority to pass.
“If it failed we’d go back and find out why. With student transportation, the only reason I think it would fail is if we failed to get the information out about the need,” Armstrong said. “We’re encouraging everyone to get out and vote March 5. It’s critical and we hope to see a good turnout.”
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 5.
Voters who want to cast in-person absentee ballots can do so at the Rogers County Election Board on Friday, March 1 and Monday, March 4.
Registered voters inRogersCountywho became physically incapacitated after 5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26, won’t have to miss the election, County Election Board Secretary Julie Dermody said.
State law lets such registered voters cast their ballot on an emergency basis.
“If you think that you or someone you know fits into this category, contact the County Election Board office at 918-341-2965 as soon as possible for more information,” Dermody said.