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By John Collins

jcollins@lowellsun.com

DRACUT -- Transportation costs are running up a deficit of $240,000 more than was budgeted for in the 2013-2014 fiscal year, Superintendent of Schools Steven Stone announced.

It marks the second straight year that costs of operating the school district's transportation program have far outstripped the appropriated amount for that budget line-item at the start of the school year, even after factoring in the total amount of student-rider fees collected, Stone said.

"We know that the problem (of the school transportation deficit) is out there," Stone said. " We have to tackle it before the end of the year. We are monitoring (the costs) every day."

As happened last spring, Stone said he will most likely seek the School Committee's approval to use School Choice funding to offset the deficit and achieve a balanced budget by the fiscal year's end on June 30.

"As we've spoken about before, it is likely that School Choice funds -- that we otherwise could put toward instruction and learning -- we're going to have to use to help offset the deficit," said Stone.

According to the superintendent's 2012-13 schools budget summary, the district received a total of $125,000 in student transportation fees last year. Among funds received from outside sources, the district received $154,616 in School Choice funds last year.

Dracut School Committee members have had no conversations in public sessions about upping the transportation fees, which are already among the highest in the region at $200 per student rider, with a $600 family cap.

For more on this story, see Tuesday's Lowell Sun, or click on www.lowellsun.com.