School Board Adopts Fuel Reimbursement Policy for School Field Trips & Other Activities

July 10, 2008
Dwayne Page

Because of the ever increasing cost of fuel, the DeKalb County Board of Education has adopted a policy for the upcoming school year seeking reimbursement from groups for the costs of bus transportation to and from school field trips and extracurricular activities.

Under the policy, adopted by the Board of Education Thursday night, sponsors of field trips and extra curricular activities will have to pay the bus driver, as in the past. However, beginning this fall, they will also have to reimburse the school system for the cost of fuel as well as the cost of wear and tear on the bus.

The calculation is figured on the cost of fuel per gallon based on the last delivery costs, divided by average bus mileage of 6.5 miles per gallon, rounded to the nearest whole cent, and then doubled for the wear and tear of the bus, multiplied by the number of miles traveled.

For example, the current cost of fuel, based on the latest delivery, is $4.34 per gallon. Divide $4.34 by 6.5 miles per gallon and the cost is figured at 67 cents per gallon. Then add another 67 cents for the cost of wear and tear and the total cost per mile is $1.34.

Based on this calculation, if a field trip were taken today at 108 miles round trip, then the cost to the sponsor or group using the bus would be $144.72.

The costs would fluctuate somewhat with the changing price of fuel, but the wear and tear costs would never drop below 50 cents per mile.

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby says he regrets having to enact such a policy "but with the cost of fuel we have to do something. It's just going to be more expensive to run buses. We actually estimated the cost of fuel at $5.00 per gallon for diesel for this next school year, but after talking to the distributor, he said we might have felt a lot safer estimating the cost at $6.00 per gallon."

"The extracurricular activities that we use our buses for and for the field trips, all those are very important educational tools. What we are going to do is look at where we go a lot closer and we will be more creative with field trips. We might do field trips that are closer to home. The TSSAA has already looked at next year's (football) schedule on revamping the teams that we would play so the teams would not have to travel as far. We've been doing two field trips per teacher a year but there's a possibility we might have to cut back to one trip. It's not something we want to do but I believe we're going to have to look at some reality here with this fuel cost."

Board Chairman W.J. (Dub) Evins III added that "As best as I can calculate it with 180 days of school and what we put in the budget, it's going to cost the school system about $2,000 a day to run our buses or $10,000 a week."

Third district member Kenny Rhody responded " That's versus $400 or $500 a day two years ago. The costs are eating it (budget) alive and that's just for fuel. The costs of tires, oil, and everything else has gone through the roof too."

In other business, Director Willoughby presented his monthly report on personnel. Those employed for 2008-09 since last month are as follows:

Orlando Guzman, Shop Foreman
Peggy Pursell, Transportation Manager
Jonathan Wright, Band Director
John Pryor, teacher at DeKalb County High School
Lyndsey White, teacher at DeKalb West School
Cynthia Pulley, teacher at DeKalb West School
Shelly Jennings, teacher at Northside Elementary School
Cynthia Hale, teacher at Northside Elementary School
Taleen Lambert, teacher at DeKalb Middle School

April Hines, teacher at Smithville Elementary School, has resigned
James Wilkerson, mechanic, has resigned

Kathy Bryant, teacher at Northside Elementary School, was granted a leave of absence as requested.

Last month, the school board voted to ask the County Commission for an additional $200,000 in funding for the 2008-09 school budget, based on information from the state

Thursday night, the board voted to rescind the action making the request based on new information from the state.

The total State Basic Education Program (BEP) Funding allocation for DeKalb County for 2008-09 is $12,083,000 including instructional, classroom, and non-classroom funding. The total required local matching funds for DeKalb County is $3,921,000. The total BEP funding for DeKalb County including state and local funding is $16,004,000.

School Board members and the Director were under the impression that since the local BEP match requirement was $3.9 million and the tentative budget showed local operating revenues for schools at only $3.7 million, then the county would have to add another $200,000 to the school budget or risk losing state funding for schools.

However, Director Willoughby said Thursday night he learned last week from state education officials that the county can count it's appropriation of debt service funding for schools toward the local match, which is significantly more than $200,000.

The school board also adopted a resolution seeking participation in the Local Government Energy Efficiency Loan Program administered by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

The resolution must also be adopted by the county commission before the school system can participate.

Under the program, the school system may apply for interest free loans in order to improve energy efficiency at all five schools. Money saved through energy conservation measures would be used to repay the loans.

Maintenance Supervisor Earl Jared says if the program is approved most of the work would involve replacing lighting. " A lot of our light fixtures are going to be obsolete by 2010. This would get all those changed out. For example, the gymnasium at the high school has 1,000 watt incandescent bulbs. They pull around 10 amps. The flourescents that I have found that we could put up there pull 2 amps and give more light."

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