Costly school bus fuel creates financial crunch

July 18, 2008 7:22:23 PM PDT
High fuel costs will begin taking a toll on some local Bay Area school districts. As students begin the new school year, transporting them will mean having to cut programs.

Vallejo Unified School District owns and operates its own school buses. A fleet of 60 buses transports 2,000 students. With high fuel prices, it's a burden on a district already in a financial crisis.

"We spend about $30,000 a month on diesel for our bus fleet. We're looking at probably going up to $35,000 a month because we are watching gasoline prices shoot through the roof," says Jason Hodge with the Vallejo Unified School District.

According to the Energy Information Administration, on the wholesale market the price of diesel is roughly $4.54 a gallon. That's about a 40 percent increase since 2007.

While it takes about 20 gallons of gasoline to fill up a car, it takes 60 gallons to fill up a small school bus and about 100 gallons to fill up a larger bus, so you begin to understand how the district is concerned about transporting all these kids in Vallejo

"So to fill up a 100-gallon bus it's probably anywhere from $300 to $500, and that's just for a week of transportation," says Hodge.

San Jose Unified also faces higher fuel costs. The school board will now consider increasing the fee for field trips when transporting students.

On the other hand, a few years ago San Francisco locked in a fuel price with First Student, formally Laidlaw Transit. That company will absorb any increases.

"We entered the contract with Laidlaw in 2005 and it goes until July of 2010 and in it any costs that increase in the contract are not passed to us," says Heidi Anderson with the San Francisco Unified School District.

First Student did not return our calls to find out how fuel prices are affecting them.

Meanwhile, the Vallejo School District will ask the state for a special allocation.

"Anything extra that we have to spend here on diesel and gasoline for our buses is money from kids and classrooms," says Hodge.


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