Hutto ISD explores options to replace aging vehicle fleet

Hutto ISD Director of Facilities and Operations Brandon Cardwell talks to the Hutto ISD Board of Trustees about leasing its fleet of vehicles.

Hutto ISD Director of Facilities and Operations Brandon Cardwell talks to the Hutto ISD Board of Trustees about leasing its fleet of vehicles.

The Hutto ISD Board of Trustees voted Thursday to table a proposal that would replace portions of the school district’s vehicular fleet, asking an alternate plan be introduced at October’s meeting.

The board voted 6-1 to delay the measure introduced by Hutto ISD Director of Maintenance and Operations Brandon Cardwell. Cardwell will amend the office’s proposal to replace certain vehicles in the Hutto ISD’s aging vehicular fleet.

According to Cardwell, 16 out of the district’s 28 white fleet vehicles are at least 10 years old and his office recommended a program to sell off 10 of those vehicles and replace them with new models through a fleet leasing program with Enterprise. The district would not have to pay front end taxes and would pay state-rate prices for the new vehicles. Hutto ISD’s previous budget allocated for just one fleet vehicle to be replaced every year. Thursday's proposal included a five-year contract for each vehicle and prices included bed liners, tool boxes and ladder racks where necessary.

The proposal with Enterprise would be for five years initially, and would replace all fleet vehicles, including 10 the first year, seven the in 2018, four in 2019, two in 2020 and one in 2021. The program would then start over, meaning Hutto ISD would never have a fleet vehicle over 5 years old. Cardwell said the average mileage is approximately 10,000 per year, per vehicle.

What was presented Thursday included a 10-year total of $1,285,821, which was $35,000 savings in what the proposed budget will be at $120,000 per year for a new vehicle and the maintenance of the fleet. At status quo, Cardwell said the cost will be $1,320,000.

The trustees could not reach a consensus on the vote and instead chose to delay an action vote until an amended proposal could be re-introduced.

Trustee Scott Feller questioned the immediate need for 10 brand new vehicles and recommended turning to the used car market for reduced rates, instead. Feller also said at the end of the lease, the district would own nothing. Enterprise said they would sell the vehicles after five years and rebate part of the profit back to the district.

Cardwell’s proposal mentioned a potentially inflated used car market as an incentive to sell off some of Hutto ISD’s vehicle assets before the end of the year. Hurricane Harvey totaled an estimated 500,000 cars in the Houston metro area and analysts believe that could result in higher used vehicle prices across Texas.

Trustee Phillip Boutwell said he understood the need to replace fleet vehicles, but felt replacing all would offer the wrong perception to the taxpayers.

"It's going to come back and bite us," Boutwell said, adding it would be difficult to ask voters to support a new school when the district has all new vehicles.

The board asked Cardwell to return in October with a plan to replace fewer vehicles in 2017 and beyond with a priority on utilizing the assets that Hutto ISD currently owns.
By Iain Oldman
Iain Oldman joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2017 after spending two years in Pittsburgh, Pa., where he covered Pittsburgh City Council. His byline has appeared in PublicSource, WESA-FM and Scranton-Times Tribune. Iain worked as the reporter for Community Impact Newspaper's flagship Round Rock/Pflugerville/Hutto edition and is now working as the editor for the Northwest Austin edition.


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