Florida school districts feel pinch as fuel prices reach new highs

Osceola Public Schools concerned about the dramatic increase in gas prices

School buses in Osceola County.

KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Continuously rising gas prices are busting budgets and forcing not only drivers to find ways to save, but school districts too.

Osceola County Public Schools public transportation director Arby Creach said school districts are not exempt from paying for the high-priced fuel.

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AAA reports the national average for regular gas is $4.25 and diesel is $4.88.

“We’ve had some spikes, we’ve had some ebb and flows, but consistently across the board these are the highest prices we’ve seen in a very, very long time,” Creach said.

Creach said the increase in cost is impacting the school district.

“They have to spend a lot more money than they’d ever budgeted for fuel just to simply bring kids to school,” he said.

The district transports 23,000 students to school daily, spending about $1 million a year on diesel gas for school buses.

“We’re very, very concerned about what’s going on because in the last week alone the diesel prices for us has gone up over 40%,” Creach said.

He said they are not experiencing a crisis just yet. The district is not facing a supply shortage, but if prices continue to rise, he said it will dramatically affect the budget and operations.

“If we exceed our budget, that money has to come from somewhere and we hope that money doesn’t have to come out of the classroom,” he said.

News 6 reached out to other school districts to find out if they had similar worries.

A spokesperson for Orange County Public Schools said:

“The district has around 630 buses operating on any given day. The usage varies, but on average, each bus uses about 95 gallons of diesel a week. We have seen an increase in fuel costs of about 9% from January to February. Since we are operating fewer buses due to the driver shortage, there are additional funds to help cover some of the unanticipated cost increases.”

A spokesperson for Volusia County Public School said:

“We are part of a piggyback contract with Volusia County Government. The price of gasoline floats day-to-day. But we typically purchase our fuel “just in time” and fill our tanks at our terminal fuel islands. Obviously, the volatility of the market is something that concerns private citizens, private companies and public entities like us. We are closely monitoring the changes in fuel prices. But, it will not change our service delivery model and we will continue to be vigilant of our fuel expenditures, which is our standard practice.”

A spokesperson for Seminole County Public Schools said:

“Fuel accounts for a large percent of Transportation overall budget so therefore it plays a major role in the budget process. As a district, we put in contingency plans for events such as this. It starts with putting in cost reduction savings such as purchasing propane buses. As a District, our leaders understood the importance of reducing the use of diesel and increasing the use of propane buses which helped decrease the fuel cost. Propane has consistently remained cheaper to use than diesel.

A spokesperson for Marion County Public Schools said:

“If energy costs, including diesel fuel and gasoline, continue increasing in cost, it will eventually mean other funds will have to cover the difference between budgeted costs and actual costs.”

Creach said the governor is encouraging schools to use electric school buses but that is not doable for Osceola Public Schools right now.

So far, the district has tried to maximize efficiency by letting more students on a bus at once to decrease the number of trips.

About the Author:

Treasure joined News 6 at the start of 2021, coming to the Sunshine State from Michigan.