Public transportation hurt by record diesel prices - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Public transportation hurt by record diesel prices

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March 21, 2008

Albany -- The color of school buses haven't changed over the years. They're as yellow as ever. But the cost of getting students from home to school and back again, has changed dramatically.

"Unfortunately we don't try and guess. What we use is the current price that's rolling at the time we do the budget. Therefore, we used $2.40 a gallon which is what we were paying when we pulled the budget together last June," said Dougherty County School System's Executive Director of Finance Robert Lloyd.

But the price of diesel skyrocketed over the past year. And with costs this year at nearly a dollar more on the gallon, that price will in turn effect next year's budget

"We have to replace the balances through the next budget cycle and obviously we'll budget at the current rolling cycle when we do the budgets for next year in May and June," Lloyd said.

With almost 2 months left in the current school year, the Dougherty County School System has nearly surpassed last year's diesel costs. With $631,000 and change spent through March, an additional $100,000 in diesel costs is projected before year end.

But it's not just the school system that has been hit hard by high fuel prices.

"Over the last 2 years, we've probably had an increase of over 100% in our diesel fuel costs." said Orlando Rambo.

Rambo is Vice President and CFO of Destiny Transportation - a transit service for the elderly, handicapped, and general public that operates in 5 area counties.

He said, "We have not had to cancel any of our routes. That has been a consideration and we have tried strongly not to do that. We are now in the process of talking with some of the other providers in the region discussing what are going to be our alternatives if we do not get some type of funding relief."

Destiny Transportation has converted most its fleet line of 37 buses and vans to gasoline vehicles. But even with the lower cost for gasoline, the company which relies heavily on grant money hopes the price of fuel drops soon.

The Dougherty County School System said they have not had to cut back on transportation for students or athletic events. If the price of diesel drops next year, lower than the projected budgeted totals, it could create a budget surplus that would balance out this year's extra cost. But that's still a game of wait and see.

Analysts say the rise in diesel costs varies from that of gasoline because it's more tied to the global economy where the demand is much higher.

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