Gas Prices Squeeze Schools, Tough Decisions To Be Made - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

3/28/05-Lindale

Gas Prices Squeeze Schools, Tough Decisions To Be Made

The pain of high prices at the gas pump is being felt by everyone in East Texas. Every day, hundreds of school buses are on the road as well. And that means school districts are feeling it, too. Many budget for a small hike, but soon, some tough decisions will have to be made: cut some of the bus routes or cut somewhere else.

The buses have to run. The kids have to get home. And the buses keep drinking more expensive fuel.

Lindale ISD Asst. Superintendent Jim Bernard says, "We always budget more than we're going to need, just for this."

Bernard says the last few months have seen a disturbing trend.

"We've seen the gas and diesel prices going up and down for years, but we haven't seen it at the height it is now. Last month, we paid $1.34 for diesel and $1.34 for gas."

This month it's more than 30 cents higher. Lindale ISD pays a lower price than most drivers, but when you guzzle 5,000 gallons on a light month, still it's tough to swallow.

"Right now, we're trying to not cut any activity or any event that we've got scheduled," Bernard says. Fortunately, school is almost over.

"Most of your extracurricular activities are over, travel wise."

It is a matter of good timing for this year, but what about next year? If gas prices continue to rise, the money has to come from somewhere. Either the district will raise taxes, or they'll cut back services.

"So, if we see that we're going to have to raise the budget in one area, we're going to have to cut in other areas. Of course, the schools operate on state funding. We don't know what we're going to get from the state next year," Bernard adds.

As for this year, he says time has been the saving grace.

"If this was mid-year we would definitely be out of money before school's out."

From where might next year's extra fuel money come? Many options will be looked at, including whether trips for extracurricular activities might have to be scaled back.

Reported by Morgan Palmer. mpalmer@kltv.com

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