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School Districts Across Missouri Tap into Funding for Propane School Buses

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School Districts Across Missouri Tap into Funding for Propane School Buses

 

It’s a hard challenge for school district leaders to overcome: save money while reducing emissions. But it’s very possible and multiple school districts across Missouri are achieving it through propane autogas school buses. There currently are more than 300 propane school buses operating in the state.

 

“I think cost and emissions both certainly played a role in our looking at propane,” said Daryl Huddleston, director of transportation for Independence School District. “Although at the time, the price of diesel was pretty low, the clean energy was intriguing and we thought it was a good thing to look at for the community and district as well.”

 

With 30 buildings in the district and approximately 9,500 students, Independence School District currently runs about 100 routes per day, which includes special needs and early childhood.

 

Right now, 11 out of the district’s 128 school buses run on propane. Compared to the current cost of diesel at $2.25 per gallon and gasoline at $2.10, the district said it locked in propane at 68 cents per gallon through the end of the school year. It estimates $2,000 savings in fuel cost per bus each year, leaving more dollars for school.

 

School districts like Independence that purchase propane will experience many benefits, including cost-savings. But districts may qualify and redeem additional funding to lower the total cost of ownership, extending their savings.

 

Clean Bus Replacement Plan

In order to replace its diesel buses that were 15 to 18 years old, Independence School District received multiple funding sources to purchase the propane buses, including a $20,000 rebate from the Missouri Propane Education & Research Council (MOPERC). 

 

MOPERC’s Clean Bus Replacement Plan benefits school districts and communities throughout the state regardless of location. It offers rebates to leverage funding to districts and bus contractors who adopt propane buses, either through Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust funds or on their own.

 

MOPERC, created by state statute to provide propane safety and education programs, has pledged $1 million to help school districts transition from diesel buses to propane models.

 

Liberty Public Schools also took advantage of the program and received $20,000 for its purchase of 10 new Blue Bird propane school buses.

 

“By choosing propane buses, we are seeing dramatic cost savings. Money saved in transportation becomes available for other education expenses related to the classroom,” said Jeff Baird, transportation director for Liberty Public Schools. “Taking care of our students’ needs is top priority because they’ve sacrificed so much during the pandemic, and our propane buses help us do that.”

 

At the end of 2019, Student Transportation of America received $20,000 for its acquisition of new propane school buses that are in service throughout the Kansas City Public Schools district.

 

Zero Percent Financing Plan

In addition to its Clean Bus Replacement Plan, MOPERC offers a Zero Percent Financing plan where districts can get 0% interest loans through lease purchase financing up to $300,000. This plan on lease-purchase acquisitions allows a district to stretch out payments with no interest expense. The financing is available through Central Bank only.

 

Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust Funding

Another way Missouri school districts can tap into funding for propane buses is through the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust. Missouri was awarded $42 million from the trust, to be spent over 10 years (by October 2027). School districts can receive up to $22,000 for each school bus replaced, with up to three new diesel bus replacements and up to 10 bus replacements for alternative fuels, including propane autogas.

 

Lewis County C-1 School District in northeast Missouri used the Volkswagen funding to purchase its four new propane school buses. The district’s superintendent, John French said the district received trust grant funds totaling $20,000 per bus for two propane buses, and $37,500 per bus for the other two.

 

“Anything we can do to provide a cleaner environment and less pollution being breathed in by our students is something I believe strongly in striving to accomplish,” said French. “We believe the savings gained from our alternative fueled propane school buses will eventually lead to more money going into the classroom, which will, in turn, reduce the local tax burden.”

 

The district currently operates 18 diesel buses, paying about $2.25 per gallon, compared with propane at $1.55 per gallon.

 

Incentives from Propane Companies

Affordable infrastructure cost is a key to successful adoption of propane. It is the lowest of any fuel, alternative or conventional. Independence School District chose local propane company Ferrellgas to build the fueling infrastructure and provide the fuel. The district now has one station with two fuel pumps and an 18,000-gallon tank at its transportation facility. The buses are fueled every other day based on a schedule.

 

“When we decided to transition to some propane buses, the low infrastructure costs really helped make that decision. We did not have to retrofit the shop like you would with CNG,” said Huddleston.

 

Liberty Public Schools’ most recent diesel price is $1.86 per gallon, while locked in at $0.79 per gallon for propane with an on-site fuel station. The district expects to cut its fuel costs by 35% on propane buses.

 

Planning for the Future

Once many school districts experience the multiple benefits of propane through real-world experience, they commit to purchasing more propane buses.

 

“We plan to add 10 more propane buses hopefully very shortly, and to add as the budget allows us,” Huddleston said. “Our hope is to add 10 per year over the next five to six years.” He said that right now the propane buses are assigned for routes, but they plan on ordering a special needs propane bus, too.

 

And what do students and their families have to say about propane school buses? “They notice the lack of emissions, and as we continue to go forward, we’ll see some cost reductions that will be funneled back into the classroom,” Huddleston said. Propane not only can transport more healthily, but add to students’ learning through the district’s healthy bottom line.

 

Visit PropaneMissouri.com for more information about school buses fueled by propane autogas.