Pat Hering, a first-year driver for the Moffat County School District, fills up the tank of her bus before going out on the afternoon route.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Pat Hering, a first-year driver for the Moffat County School District, fills up the tank of her bus before going out on the afternoon route.

Fuel costs hit home for schools

Reserve projected to cover possible future price increases

By the numbers

• 17: Routes driven by Moffat County School District buses

• 23: Buses in the School District's fleet

• 1,500: Weekly average of diesel fuel consumed by bus fleet

• About $2,000: Dollars spent on diesel weekly to fuel district buses

• 5: Number of bus routes cut since 2003 because of gas prices

Gas gauge

Sinclair, 666 W. First St.

• Unleaded: $3.88

• Diesel: $4.20

Petrowest, 301 School Road

• Unleaded: $4.07

• Diesel: $4.41

Conoco, 140 W. Victory Way

• Unleaded: $3.98

• Diesel: $4.35

Loaf 'N Jug, 2441 W. Victory Way

• Unleaded: $3.99

• Diesel: $4.34

Kum & Go, 895 Yampa Ave.

• Unleaded: $3.99

• Diesel: $4.34

Kum & Go, 1302 W. Victory Way

• Unleaded: $3.99

• Diesel: $4.34

Gofer Foods (Conoco) 923 E. Victory Way

• Unleaded: $3.99

• Diesel: $4.19

Kum & Go, 700 E. Victory Way

• Unleaded: $3.99

• Diesel: $4.34

Trevco, 702 Industrial Ave.

• Unleaded: $4.10

• Diesel: $4.45

Jim Baptist can remember a time when fuel for school buses cost about $1 a gallon.

Baptist, Moffat County School District transportation director, has only to look at the numbers to know that those days are over.

During the 1999-2000 school year, the transportation department spent about $39,000 on fuel.

During the 2007-08 school year, that number jumped to about $112,000. That's about a 300 percent increase in a period of eight years.

The School District gets a small break on gas prices. As a government entity, it's not required to pay fuel taxes and, therefore, saves about 50 cents per gallon.

But the reduced cost isn't enough to offset gas prices that have climbed significantly in recent years. Pain at the pump has caused the School District to make cuts in the bus service it provides to students.

"In the last five years, we've been in a cutback mode," Baptist said, adding that the department has dropped five bus routes in the past five years to decrease fuel costs. As a result, it lost at least five bus drivers during the same time period.

Still, the School District hasn't denied bus service to students, except for those who live within walking distance of school.

In-town bus routes were dropped, but out-of-town bus routes were reconfigured to pick up students who live within city limits.

With each bus seating about 50 students on average, as many as 250 students could have been shifted to other routes.

At the same time, the transportation department culled the oldest buses out of its fleet.

The transportation department isn't at risk for any more major cuts even if diesel prices continue to climb.

Increasing fuel costs haven't impacted the transportation department's maintenance fund. By decreasing bus routes and drivers, "we've been keeping our head above water," Baptist said.

And, a $29.5 million bond issue voters passed last year has freed up funds that previously were earmarked to maintain School District buildings. The transportation department can use those funds as a buffer in case fuel prices continue to increase, Baptist said.

He couldn't estimate how large that sum could be.

Mark Rydberg, district finance director, was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

Baptist, however, has confidence that added funds will be enough to offset possible fuel cost increases in the future.

"I just feel comfortable that if I start running out of fuel - if my budget wasn't quite high enough - that there's going to be a little in reserve.

"It's always nice to have a little money in reserve, (so) if you don't quite budget enough because of what gas does, they can find the money so you can keep the wheels going."

Bridget Manley can be reached at 875-1795 or bmanley@craigdailypress.com

Comments

taxslave 5 years, 6 months ago

We haven't seen anything yet in fuel prices. Sure hope there is a really big reserve to finance both the buses and the snow plows this winter.

It's obvious that no one around here is talking about or doesn't know about the financial chaos that is about to be unleashed.

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