The Sevier School District is facing an unexpected financial burden and a budget overrun in its transportation department, so officials have been forced to adopt ways to save money and are looking at additional conservation practices.

The state's Office of Education has also strongly recommended that the district reduce its fuel consumption, the culprit responsible for over-budget spending because of high prices. The district is paying $1.08 per gallon for diesel fuel as compared to 67.1 cents eight months ago, and the cost for gasoline has risen from 75 cents to $1.02.The district has implemented several suggestions offered by the state, said Samuel Ware, business administrator who is responsible for transportation. Idling time has been reduced, larger buses are being bought, routes are being consolidated, and opening and closing time at some schools are being staggered to allow for greater use of a single bus.

District officials have also quit buying gasoline-powered buses and have purchased larger ones that will accommodate more passengers.

The board of education and the administration is looking at changing bus stops and requiring some students to walk a little further, Ware said. State guidelines call for elementary students who live farther than 1.5 miles from the school and secondary students who reside further than two miles to ride buses. Walking distance for most bus students is limited, while non-bus students usually walk more than those who regularly ride the bus.

"Our first concern is for the safety of students and drivers," Ware emphasized. "We will not require anything that puts them in danger." He assured parents that changes will not be made until each is carefully considered.

"Every effort is being made to keep transportation costs to a minimum while continuing to provide adequate service," Ware said. He cautioned residents not to be alarmed when they see school buses that are not fully loaded because they are probably near the end or beginning of a route or there are circumstances that develop which do not allow for other options.

District officials are also looking at possible savings by reducing activity trips. Ware said such trips are funded according to the activity. A budget is set for each school, and principals decide how the transportation money is spent.