A bill awaiting committee action in the Iowa House would set up a centralized school bus purchasing system for Iowa school districts. Representative Curtis Hanson, a Democrat from Fairfield, is the bill’s sponsor.
“This vision is for schools of Iowa to help taxpayers and help schools reduce the cost of their buses. Schools in the past have been purchasing buses one or two or three at a time,” Hanson says. “If we can consolidate that bidding process and bid on 300 or 400 — or maybe 500 or 600 at a time, then we can get a substantial cost reduction.”
Hanson got the idea from other states.
“Minnesota is doing this and has been very successful at doing this,” Hanson says. “So I thought: ‘Why not pattern this after the Minnesota bill that’s saving Minnesota taxpayers and Minnesota schools money?'”
The average cost for a standard yellow school bus is $70,000. Hanson estimates buying buses in bulk would save at least $500 per bus. Multiply that by 400 buses and that’s $200,000.
“I think it’s a wonderful way to save taxpayers money and save schools money,” Hanson says, “and, plus, reduce the paperwork and the legwork that local schools have to do.”
Buses must meet minimum safety standards, but districts do have many options to sort through when buying a bus. Hanson’s bill calls for the centralized purchasing of school buses to be handled by staff in the Iowa Department of Education as well as staff in the Iowa Department of Administrative Services who handle other state purchasing contracts.
“There’s about 300-400 buses in the state of Iowa purchases each year,” Hanson says. “They have a normal recycling plan that every so many thousand miles or every so many years they will renew their bus fleet and so that’s a planned purchase that they need to keep up on and this will help administratively, too, because the changes in requirements and so forth will be centrally located.”
School districts would not be required to join the bus purchasing coop if Hanson’s bill becomes law. The decision to turn over school bus purchasing to state administrators would be voluntary. Hanson’s bill cleared a subcommittee this week and awaits action in the full House Education Committee.