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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

School bus gas has district fuming

Thursday, September 25, 2008

If you think you wince when you fill up your family car at the pumps, imagine having to gas up vehicles that get between six and seven miles per gallon.

Now imagine having to drive the distance from New York to Los Angeles - 136 times a year.


"For schools, it is an issue that continues to grow dramatically as gas prices go up," Storm Lake Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paul Tedesco said. "There is absolutely no way to put a cap on it absolutely no way to put a cap on it without taking away opportunities for your students."

The Storm Lake district all-diesel school buses and other vehicles logged 138,879 miles last school year, carrying students to extra curricular events as well as providing transportation to and from school in the district that sprawls across 85 square miles.

Bus fuel cost the district $56,600 for the 2006-07 school year - it had risen to well over $84,000 last year.

"Remember when gas was costing $2.50 a gallon and we thought that was absolutely kicking our behinds?" Tedesco said. "It just continues year to year."

While the district has been able to balance the budget, it is a trend that schools can't continue to bear for much longer, he feels.

"Fuel is just one cost, but it is one reason that schools' budgets are getting tighter and tighter. Like many districts, our budget is very heavy on staffing - beyond the salaries for our people, there's not much left in terms of areas you can cut to make up for higher fuel prices," Tedesco said.

The district has made some adjustments in busing to trim the cost slightly, compared to some of the more radical cuts made in some areas around the nation, and Tedesco believes Storm Lake schools have been able to adjust without causing any hardships for students or their families. No activities have been eliminated.

The district recently brought some League of Schools offerings into Storm Lake, as opposed to sites in other area towns. The real reasoning was to cut down on lost classroom time for students going to those programs, but a side benefit has been saved mileage and fuel, Tedesco said.

For its size, Storm Lake is a relatively physically small district. Its 85 square mile area compares to 555 s.m. for Western Dubuque County School District, for example, where bus routes stretch 4,200 miles per day.

While costs vary somewhat from district to district, it is not uncommon for bus fuel costs to have quadrupled to quintupled between the 2001-02 year to 2007-08.

While a new Storm Lake elementary school being constructed will replace four neighborhood schools buildings around town, it may not save the district anything in bus miles and fuel, as students will have to be carried to the new building from the various areas of town.

However, it is expected that the more effficient new school will save the district about $35,000 per year as compared to current heating utility costs.

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