School districts cutting for gas prices

July 16, 2008 5:23:52 PM PDT
High prices at the pump and high food costs are impacting everyone. While many of you may be making changes, big school districts in the Houston area are doing the same thing. It does seem like every time we turn around expenses are going up. From groceries at the store to gas for the truck or car, times are tough.

"They're really high right now for everything," said consumer Francisco Gomez. "Food you know gas and everything. It's kinda hard to live."

And they don't seem to be getting any easier. You feel it whether it's filling your gas tank, feeding your family or heating and cooling your home.

And of course those increases don't just affect individuals like us, they also affect, for example school districts. In Katy they're doing the best they can with what they have.

"The increases in consumer prices are hitting school districts as well," said Kris Taylor of the Katy Independent School District.

In Katy ISD they use 3,000 gallons of diesel or unleaded every school day.

"At the beginning of the 2007-8 school year, we budgeted $1.7 million for fuel costs," Taylor said. "Next year we will be budgeting $3.4 million in fuel costs. So it's exactly doubled in one year."

Add to that stress the fact the state reimbursement for transporting students more than two miles hasn't increased in 20 years when fuel cost was a fraction of what is cost now. Plus the cost of food is going up and while Katy isn't planning on increasing hot lunch prices this year, its contract is up for renewal in the fall so it'll surely go up next year.

To help, Katy has cut 10% of the budget in every department, but it has not impacted the classroom.

"In Katy, and I think I can speak for other school districts, the classroom is the last place you ever try to make a cut," Taylor said. "You want to focus on instruction."

I contacted seven elected officials, both senators and representatives from the Houston area to ask about what the state might due to ease the burden of these districts. Only one called me back. Representative Scott Hochberg tells me the state seems more interested in lowering property taxes, enabling local districts to raise them, to help defray costs than it does in directly helping schools.

That's his opinion, but it's the only one we got today.

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