September 7, 2005
A last minute agreement keeps South Carolina’s students on the bus. Until just hours ago, the state-run school buses only had enough fuel to drive through Friday. News 12 is on your side with the state’s back-up plan.
Late Wednesday, South Carolina Superintendent Inez Tennenbaum signed a deal with an alternative fuel vendor to keep the state’s buses running. Diesel fuel coming through the region’s pipeline couldn’t meet South Carolina schools’ needs for several weeks. Now the state’s buses will get gas delivered on a barge. Still, districts are cutting back.
Just in the knick of time, Destiny Jones’ ride home from LBC Middle School won’t be interrupted.
“We work and to pick her up back and forth, we would have to sacrifice,” said Alfonzo Toole, grandparent.
South Carolina’s 5,000 school buses burn 66,000gallons of gas a day. But since Hurricane Katrina, the district has only received 42,000 gallons a day.
So how serious is this shortage? Well, News 12 was all set up to talk with the man who fuels busses in Aiken and Edgefield Counties when he called us back and told us his supervisor wouldn’t let him talk because this is a crisis.
Now the problem is money. The state will pay wholesale cost for the new gas minus the state tax and shipping. It will cost more than usual.
And when gas from the pipeline is flowing at normal speed, the average cost is still 30 cents more a gallon than the state budgeted for. South Carolina schools are already $3.6 million in the hole from gas costs. And that number is expected to rise.
It’s a big figure. One that Destiny’s grandpa knows means budget cuts to other school activities in the future.
“It makes you feel sad because she’s going to miss out on some opportunities that she should be entitled to,” Toole said.
Aiken County buys gas from the state for field trips and sporting events. District leaders have asked schools to postpone field trips when they can until the shortage clears up. But they are not canceling anything that is already paid for.