Schools move funds around to pay for fuel

COVINGTON - With rising fuel costs and less money coming in from the state, the Newton County School System is having to move around funds to cover summer fuel costs for its buses.

According to a financial statement for May, budgeted fuel costs of $1,425,533 were 100 percent expended as of May 31 with 91.67 percent of the school year complete. This is after $150,000 was added as a midterm adjustment.

Deborah Robertson, associate superintendent for administrative services at the Newton County School System, said funds will be moved from items that still have available balances, such as $80,000 from bus purchases and $10,000 from other student transportation, to cover the fuel costs for the rest of the summer. She said the school system is allowed to move 5 percent of money within the budget as needed.

Even though regular school is no longer in session, the school system still uses fuel for buses during the summer for summer school students who have failed a class or are taking remediation courses.

This summer, the school system reported it has 30 buses running summer school routes. It started the summer school program with 26 buses but had to increase its fleet after a large number of students entered the program after failing at least one portion of the state Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests and overcrowded the buses.

Robertson said $1,869,597 is expected to be budgeted for bus fuel in the 2008-09 budget, which goes into effect July 1 and has yet to be finalized. She said that number is based on fuel at $3.50 per gallon.

According to her administrative services report, the school system purchased fuel in May at an average cost of $3.88 per gallon, which is an increase of 30 cents per gallon from April.

Robertson said right now their projections are under what gas prices are at present.

"Unless fuel comes down significantly, we are going to have to have a midterm adjustment in 2009," she said.

Also, due to rising fuel costs, the school system increased fuel and maintenance cost per mile for field trips from $1.25 to $2 for the 2008-09 school year, according to an administrative services report.

Buses traveled 425,204 miles in May, averaging 9.7 miles per gallon, and went 564,642 miles in April, averaging 10.3 miles per gallon, according to administrative services reports.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.