OAKLAND — A state program may give Regional School Unit 18 the option of buying both a handicap-accessible van and a third bus lease that was cut in this past year’s budget.

Superintendent Gary Smith proposed the idea at a budget, finance and stewardship committee meeting Wednesday night.

RSU 18, which includes Belgrade, China, Oakland, Sidney and Rome, already has set aside $13,000 in this past budget to buy a new handicap-accessible van.

The Maine School Bus Purchase Program has two applications, according to a presentation by Pat Hinckley, a facilities and transportation expert from the state department of education, that Smith summarized for the committee. A bus replacement application is meant to “respond to unique district situations” and could be used to buy the van for the district, Smith said. The other application is for addition to the fleet.

With the money saved both from using the state program and reducing bus runs with an extra bus, the district could invest in the third bus lease, he said.

Smith recommended that RSU 18 delay buying the van until it can apply to the state program, which would cover about 58 percent of the cost.

Applications are accepted in November and the district would know by February if it had won the funds.

The vans the district uses are old and can’t accommodate more than one wheelchair, so school officials are looking to be more efficient, said Chief Operations Officer Bobbi Avery.

The district also had cut a third bus lease from this past year’s budget. RSU 18 has about 45 buses. If the buses have a 15-year life cycle, three must be replaced each year, Smith said.

While members of the committee liked the idea, since Smith had just brought it up for discussion, they did not vote on this issue.

The committee also discussed RSU 18’s fund balance from the past year’s budget. As of now, the district has about $250,000 left over from the budget.

Once the final audits are complete, the remainder of that will go to reserve money, commitments and then the fund balance, which is used as an emergency fund.

“It’s so short-sighted not to build up the fund balance,” said Mary-Anne LaMarre, chairwoman of the committee.

The fund provides equity enabling the district to borrow money for projects, committee member Karen Hatch Gagne said.

The committee also discussed its next projects, which include round two of the revolving renovation fund projects. Eight were approved for the district in round one.

RSU 18 will submit two or possibly more projects for round two by September and will know if they’ve been approved in February. The projects are fixing China Middle School’s roof and changing Belgrade Central School’s site access for safety reasons.

The school board met after the committee and held nominations for the chairman position. Rick Stubbert nominated LaMarre, and Karen Hatch Gagne nominated James Isgro, the previous chairman. Ballots were taken and Isgro won enough votes to meet the requirement, which is the majority of the board, or six votes.

Stubbert nominated LaMarre again for the vice chairman position, and Andy Cook nominated Tom Burton. The first vote was 5-4 for Burton, which didn’t meet the requirement. A second vote was taken and Burton won the position.

The board also voted for LaMarre for Mid-Maine Technical Center representative and Isgro for the Mid-Maine Regional Adult and Community Education Advisory Board.

Smith reported that school enrollment numbers have decreased since June, which is unusual. He said he doesn’t think it’s because of the new charter school Snow Pond Arts Academy, though, as the academy has not reported getting many students from that district.

The academy now has about 46 students and is hoping to enroll around 65, Smith said.

The board also discussed the portable classroom at China Primary School. The building is 17 years old and is “tired” but in “decent shape,” Smith said. He sent out a notice to the towns that the district was looking to sell it and only China responded.

Since the building will cost $10,000 to move and is worth about $6,000, Smith recommended that the board sell it to China for $1.

All board members voted in favor of selling it for $1 to China. The town manager plans to move it by the end of the month, Smith said.

The board then entered into executive session.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour