The price of gas today hit three-dollars a gallon in some parts of Iowa. Diesel fuel has matched the rise in gas prices in recent months, and sometimes surpassed it. That puts the pinch on school district which have to keep the buses rolling. Council Bluffs Public School District spokeswoman Diane Ostrowski says they contract with a private company. Each year, the district uses about 100-thousand gallons of diesel fuel, and in the current contract the cost for that is set at about a dollar-75 a gallon. Ostrowski admits, “We know, looking at the escalating prices, that our costs will be far greater than that.” The district anticipates that not only deisel-fuel costs but surcharges tacked on by other suppliers and contractors will total more than 100-thousand dollars beyond what was anticipated this year — all because of rising fuel costs. The district does have measures in place to cope with the unexpected cost jump. “We understand the need to cover costs associated with operating a business,” Ostrowski, “so there is an ‘escalator’ figured in.” If the fuel cost is much above the dollar-75 figure in their contract, she says “we anticipate helping to ease that burden of the company.” Schools don’t have many corners to cut, she says, and must keep on paying bills for food, heating and contract salaries. As the school year unfolds and the full cost of fuel prices and surcharges becomes apparent, Ostrowski says “we will need to make the very difficult decisions on where we’re going to find the funds to cover those expenses.” She says schools are accustomed to looking deep within their budgets the past several years, with state funding for schools so tight. “This is adding insult to injury,” Ostrowski says, after several years of low funding allowed by the state. She says they know legislators are working hard to reverse the trend, and they hold hopes that will continue during the 2005 legislative session.
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