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School buses in line for fuel-tax break

Thursday, January 6, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 11:28 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

The Columbia school district could save nearly $60,000 a year if a bill passes to exempt school districts from paying Missouri’s fuel tax.

House Bill 65, proposed by Maynard Wallace, R-Thornfield, would exempt all school districts from paying a 17-cent tax on each gallon of fuel.

“It’s always concerned me that we have a state activity that’s having to pay taxes through the state; we’re paying taxes with tax money,” Wallace said. “That always struck me as being kind of silly.”

Wallace is a former superintendent of the Forsyth and Ava school districts in southern Missouri.

Currently, there is a 17-cent tax on diesel fuel levied by the state of Missouri in addition to the 24.4-cent federal fuel tax, which schools are already exempt from. Last year, school buses traveled more than 120 million miles in the state. The gas tax exemption bill would save schools districts nearly $3 million, said Tom Quinn, director of school governance at the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

During the past 12 months, student transportation for Columbia Public Schools used 350,208 gallons of diesel fuel, said Jacque Cowherd, deputy superintendent. “If the 17- cents-per-gallon fuel tax were eliminated that would result in an estimated savings of $59,535 over the last 12-month period.”

Wallace said that because Amendment 3 passed in the November election, eliminating the gas tax for schools would not financially hurt the state. Amendment 3 requires that all money collected from Missouri’s fuel tax go directly to the Department of Transportation. Previously, that money was distributed to several departments.

“At this time, if we took that 17 cents off for school buses, then maybe we would not be hurting MoDOT significantly,” Wallace said.

An average school bus has a 65-gallon tank and gets eight to nine miles per gallon, said Kenny Clark of Ponder Equipment Co., which sells school buses, in Linn.

Wallace said the bill would cover all school buses in all districts — even if the transportation service is contracted to private companies. The Columbia school district contracts its bus service to First Student.

“I’m not planning for it to matter,” he said. “The bill is meant to ultimately be a savings for the school district.”


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