B'ville: School district feels fuel pinch

At more than four dollars per gallon, motorists are dreading trips to the gas station. But how is the fuel crisis affecting the transportation department at our school district?

With 94 routes and 72 square miles to cover within the district, the issue of fuel efficiency is a critical one. According to Assistant Superintendent for Management Services Michael Shusda, there's not much the district can do other than operating as efficiently as they always have.

"We weren't wasting fuel prior to this," he said. "And there's no magic button we can push to start saving fuel."

The 2008-09 budget for fuel is $660,000, $135,000 more than last year's figures. To purchase fuel, the district participates in a cooperative bid conducted yearly by Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES.

"We are getting the best price through the bid," Shusda said adding that a number of school districts from the region participate in the program. "We purchase about 150,000 gallons. Whether or not that's going to be enough, we don't know."

The district has an 8,000-gallon diesel tank and 4,000-gallon gasoline tank in the bus parking lot, which are filled on a weekly basis. Depending on national fuel rates, the weekly prices are subject to adjustment.

The district also stores fuel for the village of Baldwinsville, the Baldwinsville-Cold Springs Fire Department and the Plainville Fire Department. The district bills the entities on a monthly basis.

A few years ago, the district began transporting all elementary students by bus regardless of how near or far they lived from the school. With five elementary schools, this policy added four routes to the transportation department.

"We have to remind people it was a petition placed by parents and approved by voters," Shusda said.

Using a software program that figures the most efficient routes and conducting bus maintenance for maximum efficiency, the district remains as efficient as possible. Short of cutting back transportation to sporting events, field trips or marching band trips, which Shusda said he did not anticipate the district doing, there is little the district can do. However, this fall the district will receive a hybrid school bus to test for about a month.

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