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"Diesel price hike costs school district $56,000"

"Drivers everywhere get closer to bankruptcy each time they fill the gas tanks on their passenger cars and SUVs. Imagine having to pay the gas bill for an entire fleet of school buses.Local school districts are having to deal with increased fuel prices just like consumers, but officials say transportation services will not be disrupted in the near future.Although diesel fuel prices have not increased as much as gasoline in the past few months, Don McDaniel, director of transportation for the Central Kitsap School District, said the district has begun spending more recently.Diesel has really just started raising, he said.Base diesel prices - without counting taxes - rose from 67 cents per gallon in August 1999 to $1.01 last week. That price hike means the district has spent $56,005 more on diesel this year than it did over the same period last year. Although exempt from federal fuel taxes, he said the district is still required to pay a state tax of 23 cents per gallon. I would say right now we're just guestimating where we're going to end up at the end of this year, he said.Dick Moore, supervisor of transportation for the Bremerton School District, said the district has not yet received its March fuel bill, but expects an increase of some kind.The March one is really going to tell us what's going on with prices, said Moore, who confirmed the district has experienced an increase in fuel prices of 16 cents per gallon between September and February.Both districts rely heavily on diesel-fueled buses, which get 6-7 miles per gallon, compared to 2-3 miles per gallon for gasoline-fueled buses. That's one of the main reasons we run on diesel, Moore said.Thirty-one of the BSD's 32 buses run on diesel, and McDaniel said a vast majority of CKSD's do as well.The BSD has an annual contract with Pacific Pride Commercial Fueling, Moore said, which allows for fluctuating prices of fuel, as opposed to a constant amount.Fuel always fluctuates, so you're never going to know what it's going to be like day-to-day, he said.Most of the Bremerton district's transportation funds come from the general budget, and whatever is not covered is provided from levy money, Moore said.We're not funded 100 percent by the budget, but we manage, he said.In Central Kitsap, organizers of classroom field trips or trips for athletic competitions are charged for the cost of fuel, according to McDaniel. Moore said the BSD has the same policy, which leaves the organizers with the responsibility to cut back on trips, not the school district.Moore said the increase in the price of diesel will not impact the schedule or spread of transportation for the time being - at least not for the rest of the school year.We have to continue the same operation throughout the year, he said. We don't foresee any reductions in transportation or anything like that.A little less optimistic, McDaniel said the school district's transportation budget was sufficient until school ends in May, but might have difficulties in late August.I think this year, we're OK, he said. But we're looking at serious shortfalls next year.McDaniel said he has heard rumor of a bill possibly being submitted to the Legislature which would provide additional funding for school transportation for the remainder of the year.It's going to be desperately needed if we're going to go on, he said."

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