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GCPS ends fiscal year on target

SUWANEE - Although the county school system's fuel costs increased by more than 60 percent than the year before, the district's chief financial officer said a conservative budget allowed Gwinnett County Public Schools to end the fiscal year in good shape.

Rick Cost, the chief financial officer, said the school district spent about $9 million on fuel in the previous fiscal year, which ended Monday. Because school officials anticipated a spike in prices, the budget accounted for the increased spending, Cost said.

The school district's budget for the current fiscal year, which began Tuesday, includes about $11 million for fuel, Cost said. Local tax dollars support about 90 percent of the district's transportation costs.

Carole Boyce, the chairwoman of the Gwinnett County Board of Education, said the school district has done an excellent job of managing its dollars. She noted the AAA bond ratings from both Moody's and Standard & Poor's.

Boyce said the school district has done a "very precise job" in handling fuel prices. The rising prices are causing everyone - individuals as well as the school system - to make cuts to manage the cost, she said.

"We're all looking out there for the potential pitfalls," she said. "Transportation ... is a significant cost in the whole budget, and we'll have to watch it very, very closely."

The school district has budgeted nearly $83.8 million for transportation costs for the 2009 fiscal year.