News 12 at 6 o'clock, April 21, 2008
AUGUSTA, Ga.----Richmond County schools boast a sea of more than 180 thirsty school buses. The buses have left the school system struggling to foot the bill as gas prices soar.
"More of the budget has to be shifted over to pay fuel and at this point it's hurting," said Michael Shinn who is director of transportation for the school system.
"It's hard all over. The truck drivers are struggling with their gas prices...we struggling too," said Eric Bing.
Eric has been responsible for keeping the buses up and running for 20 years.
"This is the highest I've ever seen gas prices, and it hurts for me to come to work. It cost me about 100 a week," said Eric.
With no sign of relief in sight the school system is trimming bus routes and rolling out smaller more fuel efficient cars for school personnel. And that's not all...just this weekend...new tracking devices were installed to ensure drivers avoid the scenic routes.
"You need to do as much as you can with as little as possible," said Michael. The school system spent $1.7 million dollars for fuel this year. That is twice as much as in years past, but people behind the scenes say it's the students that really matter.
"We haul the most precious cargo," said Eric.
"I don't vision that we're gonna stop picking up kids and taking them to school, but there are some other services that it will affect," said Shinn.
Some of the other services include, "Changing the high school playing zones around so that we can play teams that are closer to us. All sorts of things. We're doing all we can to keep the cost of providing these services as low as possible to the public," said Shinn.
The transportation department had to ask for an additional $250,000 dollars to finish out the school year.
The Columbia County school board is planning on amending their budget to include another $200 to $300,000 to fill up their school buses. This comes after budgeting $850,000 at the start of the school year.
And in Aiken County, the state of South Carolina actually foots the bill to fill up the school buses. That bill comes to just over $1 million this year.
That total is based on average gas prices from the past year. If they paid today's prices that total would be just under $1,500,000.