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Gas prices now having impact on West Michigan school district budgets

The Grant Public Schools superintendent said they try to make small changes like not idling buses in the mornings and are looking at streamlining routes.
Credit: 13 ON YOUR SIDE

OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. — The increase in prices at the pump is nothing new for West Michiganders this week. But what about the diesel that goes into the buses that get kids to school? Budgets at local school districts are feeling that pressure.

"We're kind of at the mercy of how gas companies are selling their products right now," said Brett Zuver, Superintendent of Grant Public Schools. "Traditionally we pre-purchase gas at a set rate, but unfortunately, that has expired for us, and I know for a few other districts as well."

For the district in Newaygo County, Zuver said the price increases for diesel are making an impact financially and when it comes to their budget. 

"We do try to be reasonably realistic with it," Zuver said, "but this year, it's pinching us a little bit for sure."

And it has leaders like Zuver asking questions like "how do we get through this?"

Zuver said they try to make small changes like not idling buses in the mornings and looking into streamlining routes if possible. He also said there is a big push from companies who may be offering electric buses.

"That's something we're obviously looking into pursuing as we learn more about it," Zuver said, "but we don't have anything like that just yet."

The rising diesel prices are also creating a strain on other districts like Holland Public Schools, which has an average of 20 buses that travel roughly 23 miles each per day. 

"School buses provide the safest means of getting your kids to and from school," said Brenda Boyd, the Transportation Supervisor for Holland Public Schools. 

Holland Public Schools fill their 10,000 diesel tank about every six weeks from a vendor. In September, Boyd said they paid $1.52 per gallon. When they re-filled this week, it was up to $3.76 per gallon, which is a $1.52 difference. 

"In total, it comes to an increase of about $700 per day," Boyd said, "and that's definitely a 'wow' factor."

Despite the jump in prices to fuel their buses, both districts agree that this mode of transportation is extremely important.

"As tough as it is right now, it's still a money-saver," said Zuver. "By not having all of our families driving their students, we do use a lot less fuel, so it's a great service that we are privileged to offer."

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