Gov. Jay Nixon releases $7.5 million for school transportation

Friday, January 14, 2011
Students hurry to their buses after school at Cape Central High School on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2010. (Kristin Eberts)

In a move to help offset rising fuel costs for public schools, Gov. Jay Nixon on Thursday announced the release of $7.5 million to local school districts to cover transportation costs.

How the funding will break out for each of Missouri's 522 school districts is yet to be figured, said state budget director Linda Luebbering.

The additional funding will help schools cover the cost of fuel for buses, which has risen about 10 percent since the start of the school year.

The funding release is possible because revenue collections are slightly better than originally anticipated, according to Luebbering. Still, she said, much uncertainty remains in Missouri state revenue collections and that any additional release at this time is not prudent.

Nixon cut $70 million in state aid for school buses and transportation in the last budget and has said bus money is a target for more cuts in the next budget, as the state grapples with a shortfall that could run as high as $700 million.

"Anything additional that we get certainly is appreciated," said Jim Welker, superintendent of the Cape Girardeau School District.

The budget cuts forced the district to trim about $140,000 out of its transportation budget, Welker said. Since fuel prices are set within its contract with transportation provider First Student, the district doesn't have to worry about escalating fuel prices. Diesel prices nationally hit $3.33 per gallon last week, 45 cents higher than the same time last year, according to the federal Energy Information Administration. Average gas prices in Missouri approached $2.91 per gallon Thursday, up about 32 cents per gallon from the same time a year ago.

The Jackson School District, which runs its own bus service, has felt the pain of rising fuel prices. Carol Woods, the district's transportation director, said diesel prices have increased 20 cents a gallon over the past three months, with contract prices hovering around $3 a gallon. In a month, the district's buses use more than 9,000 gallons of diesel.

Jackson is facing a loss of $350,000 in state funding this year, according to Wade Bartels, the district's chief financial officer.

Woods said the added revenue announced Thursday should help the strapped transportation budget.

"We've cut routes and tried to make it as efficient as possible," Woods said. "I feel anything we can get is a blessing."

mkittle@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

301 N. Clark Ave., Cape Girardeau, MO

614 E. Adams St., Jackson MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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