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News - Buses/Fuel Costs

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  • John Ralph
    School Districts Feeling The Pain Of Rising Fuel Cost Think it costs a lot these days to fill the gas tank in your vehicle? Imagine having to keep fuel in a
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 3, 2007
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      School Districts Feeling The Pain Of Rising Fuel Cost


      Think it costs a lot these days to fill the gas tank in your vehicle?
      Imagine having to keep fuel in a fleet of diesel engine school buses.
      Kevin Featherston deals with it daily. The Grand Saline ISD Maintenance
      and Transportation Director has eight bus routes * morning and afternoon
      * with the buses drinking diesel at the rate of about $2.84 a gallon.
      "That is a better price than individuals are paying at the pump for
      diesel. I think it*s about where diesel was averaging six months ago,"
      Featherston said.
      With a bit of resignation in his voice, he added, "But the prices are
      continuing to go up for us, too."
      It is a part of each school district*s budget that has administrators
      casting a wary eye from month to month * and hoping that price stability
      is not far down the road.
      "It makes it more difficult for the long term," Canton ISD
      Superintendent Dr. Jerome Stewart said. "You set the budget for 12
      months, knowing there may be slight variations that you can live with.
      But with steady gains every month like we*re seeing, it becomes more
      difficult to meet your budget."
      School districts order diesel fuel in bulk * Featherston said he has
      purchased as much as 400 gallons to help replenish a 550-gallon storage
      tank * which results in a lower price per gallon than what individual
      consumers pay.
      Along with wondering when diesel prices will begin to level off,
      though, some school administrators are starting to think about possible
      ways to curtail the fuel usage.
      "Today, crude oil is over $96 a barrel on the stock market and we don*t
      know where it*s going to stop," Edgewood ISD Superintendent Jack
      Shellnut said. "Maybe we may not go as far for field trips. It*s
      something we*ll take a look at as we go into the next budget year."
      Stewart said the effect of ever-rising fuel prices is bigger in a
      cumulative sense.
      "The district has a large enough budget to absorb a significant
      increase in diesel fuel. It*s the smaller budgets we have to adjust.
      Those are the ones that see more of an immediate impact,* he said.
      "Overall, one trip will not make a significant difference," Stewart
      said about class field trips and extracurricular activities. "(Fuel
      prices) is something we would look at, but as far as it dictating what
      trips we make, probably not."
      Above all, don*t expect cost-saving measures to come at the expense of
      school bus routes. Featherston said it is basically impossible for Grand
      Saline ISD and many other area school districts to combine bus routes
      without creating a morning pick-up and afternoon return time hardship on
      the students.
      "It*s not a consideration at all for us," he said of combining routes.
      "In fact, I*m on verge of having to add another route."
      Shellnut agreed, saying, "I don*t know if we can combine any bus
      routes. We only have six in the country (areas), so I*m just not sure
      that*s an option. We may have to start cutting in some other places to
      afford it.
      "You*ve got to transport kids who live out in the country."
      Part of the problem for school districts is in how much money is
      received from the state for transportation services. Shellnut said
      Edgewood ISD is currently receiving about $50,000 from the state.
      "You have to foot the bill locally on the rest. We*re drawing the same
      money per mile on route services for school buses that we received in
      1984," he said.
      "The state isn*t giving us more money to help with this particular
      situation, so it really impacts the local budget. If your revenue stays
      flat, which the state is moving toward, it makes it more difficult to
      meet all the needs of a diverse population," Stewart said.
      School districts are also like individuals in seeing the prices of
      other goods rise to offset higher fuel costs.
      "Everything that we order, whether it is food products for the
      cafeteria or supplies for the classrooms, is shipped by truck, so when
      the price of fuel goes up, it*s passed on to us," Shellnut said.
      For now, school administrators are trying to budget wisely for fuel
      expenses, knowing the cost could continue to rise for some time to
      come.
      "It*s not too far in the distant future that we*ll have to do
      something," Shellnut said. "It*s something we*re going to have to
      address and a matter that is approaching very quickly for all school
      districts."


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