School districts face higher fuel prices

May 6, 2008 3:41:27 PM PDT
Delaware county, like most school districts, buys its fuel in year long contracts. But, things have changed rapidly with rising fuel prices, and educators are bracing for higher prices for the next school year."We have 124 buses and we go about 1.6 to 1.8 million miles per year," said Jacob Bierling of the Upper Darby School district.

Traveling almost 1.8 million miles means Upper Darby's fleet burns a lot of fuel, more than 150 thousand gallons. The district is part of a countywide consortium of schools that contracts for more than a million gallons a year. For years, the consortium has locked in volume price.

"We had what's called a fixed rate, so we've been able to fix our rate in relationship to the coming school year," said George Illicher of the Delaware county intermediate unit.

The current rate is a bargain, less than two dollars for gas , $2.36 for diesel. But, with the oil market skyrocketing its expected next year's price will be far higher and there are concerns vendors may not want not commit to a fixed rate.

"I would be extremely surprised if we would get a fixed price on any of the gasoline, premium, regular, deisel. I think it would be very, very surprising to me," Illicher said.

Many districts report rising fuel costs are squeezing Upper Darby to cut down on wasteful cold weather idleing new buses are coming with low consumption heaters.

"It's a new type of heater, like I said, it only burns about a quarter of a gallon of diesel in order to keep the bus warm so when the driver is sitting there on a trip, the bus won't have to sit in idle," said Bierling.