OXFORD – If SAD 17 went to a single bus run, at least 10 more drivers and buses would be needed, Superintendent Mark Eastman told directors Monday night. That cost would surpass any potential savings, he said.

Norway resident Jill Gabrielsen had asked that the district look into going from picking up elementary school students in one run and middle and high school students in a second run to picking them all up together as a way to reduce costs.

The district needs to ax $502,000 in spending to help cover a projected statewide shortfall of more than $800 million. The state’s budget shortfall means reduced state aid for education.

Directors already approved $402,000 in spending cuts – the first of a two-phase reduction plan. Staff development, repair and maintenance, contingency funds, assessment and grant coordination, vocation, instructional supplies and other areas saw cuts. Plans for the second phase to address an additional $100,000 will be unveiled in January and could result in a one-day furlough or other measures.

The district faces more reductions in the next fiscal year.

Eastman said moving from two to one bus run would mean buying at least 10 more buses at about $75,000 per bus and manning them with drivers. Driver salaries for the approximately 40 school buses on the road were budgeted at $761,000 this fiscal year, according to transportation department budget. That number doesn’t include overtime, substitute drivers, benefits and so forth. Diesel was budgeted at $310,000 before prices escalated this summer.

The school buses travel about 775,000 miles annually to cover 425 square miles, picking up more than 3,600 students in eight towns, officials said.

The first run picks up the high and middle school students; the second picks up elementary school students.

The district is geographically the largest in the state.

It would be impossible to have one bus run and start the students’ school day at the same time, Eastman said. By the time students were dropped at the Harrison Elementary School, which is in Cumberland County, it would be another 20 to 25 minutes to get to the high school or middle school.

“We can’t get them started all at the same time,” Eastman said of the idea that has been studied and rejected at least three times in the past.

Privatizing the bus service would cost even more money, officials said.

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