High fuel prices are forcing Greencastle School Corporation officials to search for cost-saving measures in the transportation department, even if it means spending money to save money.
On Wednesday night, GCSC Supt. Bob Green told members of the school board that he is considering buying a computer program that would help the transportation department plan more efficient bus routes, in order to save money for fuel and other associated costs.
The program sold by the company called VersaTran could cost the school corporation $21,000.
Green said the man selling the software told him that Greencastle could save as much as $200,000 per year on transportation costs. Year-to-date, transportation costs are at $700,000, according to information provided to the school board.
Following Wednesday night's meeting, Green said that he felt the savings estimate was a little high. Even still, he said he believes the software is a good idea if it will help the transportation department plan out more efficient bus routes.
School board member Jack Berry asked whether this type of calculation could be done in house, meaning it would be done by employees of GCSC and not a software program.
"That $20,000 seems like a big chunk," Berry said.
Green said after the meeting that he doesn't think he or the transportation department has the expertise to do the calculation. He said he had looked at four, possibly more, different software companies and they offered similar programs with price tags ranging from $12,000 on the low end to $22,000 on the high end. Green's choice is VersaTran.
School board members were skeptical about the plan and asked that GCSC's transportation department consult with the North Putnam Schools where a similar software program is being used. Green said North Putnam has been pleased with its program.
The superintendent acknowledged that some in the community may be concerned by the cost of the software, however, he said that some type of action to reduce costs must be taken. He plans to purchase the program with money from the technology fund.
At several school board meetings, Green has said that the number of bus stops may have to be reduced in order to save on fuel costs, which would mean more students would have to walk to school. Green figures that option would not be received well by the community.
Other savings that would factor in, according to Green, are bus driver salaries. This would happen if the corporation eliminates some bus routes and in turn, cuts bus drivers.
Also, fewer routes could mean fewer buses, which in turn, would mean fewer buses to insure and maintain.
"We want to do what is safest and most economical," Green told the school board. "Before we pull the trigger (and buy the software), we want to be sure."
Green hopes to make a decision on whether to purchase the software soon and report back to the school board in November.