Fuel Prices Cutting into School Budgets

WALNUT RIDGE AND JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) -- Every time a school bus has to be filled up it is costing schools in Region 8 more and more.

"The price of fuel has escalated throughout the years.  It would go up and go down and have an average and this year it just continued to rise," said Lawrence County School District Superintendent Terry Belcher.

Belcher said they took a look at last year's prices and decided they had to do more this year.

"We increased our budget in fuel by about 10%.  We were about $23,000 in fuel budget and we increased it to around $32,000," said Belcher.

But even with that increase they have spent over $8,000 more this year on fuel.

"We are $200 under budget with a month to go.  We are spending $6,000 to $7,000 a month on fuel," said Belcher.

At Westside Consolidated School District Superintendent Dr. James Best said they are really feeling the strain of the fuel bill, especially for a school that has been recently placed on the state's fiscally distressed list.

"Transportation is just essential to any school district, so it's something you have to make room for.  You budget your money and something else has to go," said Best.

And it looks like Westside will stay under budget.  With about a month of school left they have about $9,000 budgeted for fuel.

"We have, over the last four years, been in the process of converting our fleet from a gasoline fleet to a diesel fleet.  This year we have consolidated a bus route and we'll consolidate two more next year," said Best.

The route for this year was consolidated about a month ago with the primary purpose of cutting costs.

"It's something that has to be managed every month and this year, to bring it in under budget, we've had to consolidate a bus route and we hate to do that because we know it's an inconvenience to families," said Best.

Both schools are getting ready for their budgets for next year and neither are sure of how much more they will over budget for fuel, not knowing what price it will be.

"We will pour over it and see if there's any way we can shorten a route or cut back we will be as efficient as we possibly can," said Best.