Pflugerville ISD students will travel to and from school and events on a new $14.8 million fleet of school buses in the upcoming academic year.

Marking the first major use of funds from Pflugerville ISD’s recently passed $332 million bond, the district’s board of trustees approved the purchase of a fleet of 159 buses from Rush Bus Centers on Dec. 20.

Previously, Pflugerville ISD has contracted a private bus company, Durham School Services, to provide buses and drivers for the school district. Purchasing a fleet of buses is a way for the district to maintain control over the quality of the fleet and its drivers, trustee Rene Mitchell said.

“I have gotten a lot of phone calls from parents about kids being left [behind], and I have witnessed a lot of late buses coming to schools well after the first period started,” she said.

The fleet of 159 buses, which includes smaller buses for special education students, features safety improvements such as seat belts, security cameras and radio communication functions with district police officers, PfISD Ed Ramos said during a presentation to the board. The sales contract with Rush Bus Services also includes a 5-year catalog budget, which will allow the district to order spare parts as needed.

Buses with seat belts and security cameras were among the purchases promised in the district's 2018 bond proposal; however, the allotted budget was $14 million. The $14.8 million purchase came in over budget and will have its difference made up for with contingency funds left over from the the district’s 2014 bond, Ramos said.

The decision to purchase the fleet as one of the first transactions made with 2018 bond funding meant the district did not have time to look at buses with alternative fuel sources, Ramos said. The new fleet will be fueled by unleaded gasoline.

“With the timeline that we're looking at now we don't really have the luxury of looking at the alternative fuel buses because that would require potentially teaming that up with a grant and looking at the price of propane and gas as well as putting in an infrastructure for alternative fuel buses,” he said.

The fleet of buses is predicted to be sufficient enough to transport the projected number of students in the district in the 2019-20 school year; however, in years beyond 2020 the district may have to buy additional buses using maintenance & operations tax revenue. In that case the district could look into alternative fuel buses, Ramos said.

Trustee Carol Fletcher said she would rather ensure the district can have better quality control over the fleet and its drivers than wait to find a way to buy a full fleet of alternative fuel buses.

“The only reason why I am willing to say let's do it now and not wait to do a more energy-efficient bus fleet with grant funds is because we simply can't afford to have the bad service that we've had,” Fletcher said. “We have got to do something.”