Higley Unified School District works to make decisions that are financially sound every day.
In May 2011, Higley gave a report to its board about alternative fuels. At that time, CNG was not recommended because of costs associated with it.
Those costs have dropped and on Dec. 18, 2012, and again on Sept. 10, 2013, the board heard new presentations. After each, the board voted to move forward with the idea.
A recent letter to the editor states the district would not see a return on investment and would be entering an unproven area.
CNG buses have been around since the 1990s, and 24 percent of new buses operate on CNG. A growing number of school districtsuse CNG, including Paradise Valley, Tucson and Chandler.
The CNG bus purchase price above a diesel bus is roughly $30,000. Current market analysis shows diesel at $3.25/gallon and CNG at about $1/gallon. With that, the district expects to see a return on investment in about 6 years. That time may be shortened with additional CNG rebates. Buses are kept 10 to 15 years.
The district is in line to receive a $750,000 grant to construct a CNG fueling station, which will keep prices low. The grant is from the Maricopa Board of Supervisors, which is funding it using landfill infraction fees, not tax dollars.
Based on initial research, the total construction cost would be less than $1 million.
In addition, the Town of Gilbert and other public groups have approached the district about using the new fueling station.
The district is diligently working to plan this project as cost-effective and cost-efficient as possible.
Denise Birdwell, Ed.D
Superintendent, Higley Unified School District