Thursday, 15 February 2024 14:16

Ballston Spa Schools Face Transportation Budget Challenges

Powerpoint image of the Ballston Spa Central School District’s 2025 Budget Development presentation, delivered at the February 7 Board of Education meeting. Screenshot via the Ballston Spa YouTube livestream. Powerpoint image of the Ballston Spa Central School District’s 2025 Budget Development presentation, delivered at the February 7 Board of Education meeting. Screenshot via the Ballston Spa YouTube livestream.

BALLSTON SPA — At the Ballston Spa Central School District Board of Education meeting on February 7, Clerk of the Board and Records Access Officer Brian Sirianni delivered the 2025 Budget Development presentation, which focused, in part, on upcoming budgetary challenges faced by the transportation department. Sirianni listed several specific challenges, including fuel costs, electric buses, and the driver shortage.

Fuel Costs

“Fuel costs really got us a year ago and overdrew the budget significantly,” Sirianni said. This year, the district has a $380,000 budget for fuel but will likely end up spending more than $400,000. But Sirianni said that this year’s added expense is “nothing compared to where it was the year before, where we had budgeted $300,000 and it [cost] $462,000.” Sirianni said that relative to last year, the district was now “in good shape” with its fuel costs. He’s predicting that gas and diesel prices will stay about the same or decrease next year. “Hopefully that will play out,” Siriani said.

Electric Buses

Sirianni said that the state government does not have a specific plan to “fund the literally hundreds of millions of dollars that it’s going to take to pay for [electric buses].” Sirianni said the district would need to purchase around 80 zero-emissions buses, each of which will cost about $380,000. “We’re not a big school district,” he said. “Multiply that across the state; they can’t afford this.”

Sirianni said he hoped the issue would go away, but not because he doesn’t agree that carbon emissions need to be lowered. “It’s just nobody can afford this, and we’re being forced to buy buses that are going to be useless in a few years because they’re going to be out of date because the technology is changing so quickly,” he said.

Driver Shortage

Sirianni said that the district’s bus driver shortage issue was improving. “We hope that it will eventually go away in the next year or so, and we’ll be in a position to not have to call it a driver shortage anymore,” he said. “We’ll see.” 

Sirianni said that the district has been paying more to train drivers, employ substitute drivers, and recruit new drivers.

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