School Districts Feel Pain At Fuel Pumps

HARRISON COUNTY (WLOX) -- Doug Bazzell has been driving buses for the Harrison County School District for 15 years. Never before has he seen diesel prices soar this high.

"I am surprised," said Doug Bazzell. "We're used to seeing fuel prices on the buses usually $80-$90. Now they're way over $100 to fill them up. Especially the last six months, it's just skyrocketed. It's unbelievable."

The costs really add up, considering that the school district has to fill-up 185 buses at least once a week.

"It's gone up 82-cents a gallon since August," said Harrison County School Superintendent Henry Arledge. "It's hitting everybody in the pocketbooks. It's hitting the school districts. It's a real serious issue."

Arledge says he has to pump $234,000 more into his transportation budget to buy diesel to run his school buses, as well as gas for a fleet of 30 maintenance and technology vehicles. The superintendent says the only option is to dip into cash reserves or other funds to offset the costs.

"There's nothing else you can do but find the money to put in there, and that's taking away from something else," said Arledge. "We might not be able to buy as many buses as we have in the past."

With fuel prices hitting an all-time high, the district will just have to keep juggling its finances, so school buses can remain on the road to transport more than 10,000 children.

"Something has to be done," Bazzell said. "We have to get these kids to school."

Some school districts, like Gulfport and Bay-Waveland, contract their transportation services to private companies. If diesel prices jump, those companies have to absorb the costs.