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Fuel up, transport budget down
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It might break the bank to fill up your gas tank these days, but the Board of Education’s proposed transportation budget is looking at a decrease next year.

Despite rising gas prices – which did impact the school’s fuel budget – the overall transportation budget is proposed go down $300,000 next year, according to a budget review Monday.

"The revenue side will be a lot less than the expenditure side for transportation because of fuel prices and miles, etc.," Financial Advisory Melanie James said. "Transportation is one of those things that there’s not a pure formula, so it’s hard to know."

The district has allotted $500,000 for pupil transportation and $101,839 for the bus replacement program.

But James said they made cuts wherever they could.

"We sat down and looked at projected costs and only increased where we needed to and decreased wherever we possible could," she said. "What we estimated in 2008 appeared to be a little high so we decreased this year. Energy (fuel) increased by about $50,000 for the upcoming year. The purchase of buses was the biggest decrease because last year we needed five buses and this year we only need two."

Superintendent Dr. Sallie Brewer said the current and upcoming gas budgets have increased "considerably" as a result of the rising price of diesel fuel.

"Our prediction last year for this year was right on target," she said. "We simply reduced what we budgeted for this year (in other areas) based on the actual expenditures for the current year."

Chairman Eddie Warren asked James if the proposed fuel increase will be big enough to handle what might happen in the next year.

James said the figure is based on an average of $4.20 per gallon for diesel fuel. She noted the FY08 transportation budget was slightly over projected, providing an extra cushion for the upcoming year. She said they also talked to coaches about estimated game travel and built that into the projection.

Transportation supplies also went up $50,000 for filters, antifreeze, tires, etc. – but James again stressed the overall transportation budget is lean.

"Bus drivers also went down for this budget because last year, we added eight new positions and never filled them, so we’ve eliminated those," she said. "We have 11 monitors budgeted to help with the rides but the district is constantly looking for drivers."

Associate Superintendent Brad Anderson said they’ve had certified staff, mechanics and helpers with CDL certification filling the positions and being paid their regular salaries plus overtime. He said in addition to those eight positions that were never officially filled this year, they still have five driver positions open.

Board member Jeff Morton suggested over the summer, schools advertise on their marquees that the district is looking for bus drivers who receive full benefits with the position.

Anderson said they have four people in various stages of the bus training program so the goal is to start next year with four of the five open positions filled.

Here are the proposed operational costs for the transportation budget. The first number is the proposed budget for FY09 and the number in parenthesis is the budget from the current year.

Purchase of professional/technical services – $0 ($1,000)

Drug and alcohol testing – $3,000 ($5,000)

Bus driver physicals – $1,500 ($4,000)

Repair and maintenance – $100,000 ($175,000)

Rental of equipment or vehicles – $3,500 ($5,000)

Insurance – $50,000 ($65,000)

Communication – $15,000 ($15,000)

Travel for employees – $5,000 ($3,500)

Other purchased services – $5,000 ($10,000)

Supplies – $75,000 ($25,000)

Purchase of computer software – $15,000 ($15,000)

Expendable equipment – $10,000 ($16,000)

Expendable computer equipment – $3,500 ($5,000)

Energy (fuel) – $450,000 ($400,000)

Purchase equipment – $20,000 ($20,000)

Purchase buses – $150,000 ($376,000)

Dues and fees – $500 ($1,500)

Other expenditures – $7,500 ($10,000)

Total operations – $916,000 ($1.15 million)

Total transportation expenditures (including salaries and benefits) – $2.21 million ($2.52 million)

Note: These figures are all proposed for the upcoming budget and have not been approved. The board will approve a final budget in June.

In other business:

- Board member Joe Pacenka raised the issue of awards being presented to Richmond Hill Middle School students at Thursday’s board meeting in conjunction with the school’s honors night. Brewer said RHMS students are up first at the meeting and should have time to get to the honors night.

- In a travel update, Brewer said the RHHS Odyssey of the Mind has followed all the necessary steps to travel to Maryland. The board will officially vote on the out-of-state travel during Thursday’s board meeting, which will be at Carver Elementary School at 6 p.m.






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