Rising Gas Prices Increase School Travel Spending
WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – As gasoline prices reach a national record high, schools in New Hanover County (NHCS) are being forced to spend more on fuel costs and transportation .
Some cities in the state have suspended state and federal gasoline taxes; however, New Hanover County is feeling the impact of fuel costs.
According to New Hanover County Schools Transportation Director Mark Clawson, every tank of fuel they fill costs $7,000 more per tank than it did at the start of the school year.
Like other schools in the state, NHCS powers its buses using an underground tank that holds approximately 150,000 gallons of fuel. Since the start of this year, the school system has seen fuel prices jump by more than $1,000 a week.
Clawson explained how accommodations to COVID-19 over the past year have become their “saving grace.”
“We pulled out of neighborhoods, we went to community stops; it has reduced the number of miles we travel each day by about 30%, and we’ve actually saved 40% on fuel consumption,” Clawson said. “We’re using more money, but we’re using less fuel every day and every year, based on the procedures we put in place a year ago.”
According to Clawson, each county in the state receives a specific amount of money for transportation based on the number of children in the school system. The amounts are not transferable; however, they can petition if more money is needed.
“We are doing what we can to make the routes more efficient,” added Clawson. “We fill the buses, we make the journeys as short as possible, we take as much seating as possible and fill it with passengers to maximize our utilization and efficiency wherever 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 children if they have a yellow bus to transport their children for them,” Clawson said.
Fortunately, the cost of fuel does not affect other costs within the school system.
“We’re doing everything we can to be as efficient as possible,” Clawson said. “We were lucky enough to make the changes we needed a year ago, so we’re well on budget this school year. We think we will stay under budget. Next year may be a different year.
Rising fuel costs aren’t the only problem the school transportation system is tackling — there’s a decline in the number of school bus drivers.
“It’s something we’re going to miss from now on in the future. So if anyone out there would like to drive a bus, come see me.
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