News - Buses/Fuel Costs
- 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,"
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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