Rise in gas prices increases school transportation spending
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - With gas prices reaching a record high nationwide, New Hanover County Schools (NHCS) is being forced to spend more on fuel costs and transportation.
Some cities within the state have suspended state and federal taxes on gas; however, New Hanover County is feeling the impact of fuel costs.
According to New Hanover County Schools Director of Transportation Mark Clawson, each tank of fuel they fill up is $7,000 more per tank load than it was at the beginning of the school year.
Like other schools statewide, NHCS fuels its buses through the usage of an underground tank which holds about 150,000 gallons of fuel. Since the beginning of this year, the school system has seen fuel prices jump by more than $1,000 per week.
Clawson explained how accommodations to COVID-19 within the past year have become their “saving grace.”
“We pulled out of neighborhoods, we went to community stops; what that did is reduce the number of miles we drive each day by about 30 percent, and we actually saved 40 percent on fuel consumption,” said Clawson. “We’re consuming more dollars, but we’re consuming less fuel each day, and each year, based on the procedures we implemented a year ago.”
According to Clawson, each county within the state receives a specific amount of money for transportation based on the amount of kids within the school system. The amounts are not transferable; however, they are able to petition if more money is needed.
“We’re doing what we can to make the routes more efficient,” Clawson added. “We fill the buses up, we make the runs as short as possible, we take as much seating capacity as possible and fill it with the riders so that we maximize our utilization and efficiency to the greatest extent possible.”
NHCS officials predict they will see an increase in ridership within the school system in correlation with fuel prices.
“Parents may not want to bear that cost of transporting their kids if they have a yellow bus to transport their kids for them,” said Clawson.
Fortunately, the cost of fuel does not affect other costs within the school system.
“We do everything we can to be as efficient as possible,” said Clawson. “We were fortunate enough to make the changes we needed a year ago, so we’re well within our budget still this school year. We think we will remain under budget. Next year may be a different year.”
Rising fuel costs is not the only issue being dealt with by the school transportation system — there is a decrease in the number of school bus drivers.
“It is one thing we are gonna be short on from now on into the future. So, if anyone out there would love to drive a bus, come see me.”
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