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School buses operated by the city of Cleveland pick up students at the end of classes Tuesday at Cleveland Middle School. The Cleveland City School Board has hired a company to do an efficiency study on school bus routes.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - The annual cost per route to run a city school bus here is about $32,000 a year, but school board members would like it to be less and are paying for a study on the issue.

"When our city taxpayers are out there, and they see all these yellow buses running around, they may think we are inefficient," board member Dawn Robinson said. "This will help us to be sure we are being efficient with our taxpayer dollars as well as that those buses need to be there."

The $32,000 cost per route is a bit below the national average, Paul Ramsey, city school system energy manager, told the Cleveland Board of Education this week. However, the board wants to see if more savings can be realized while providing good service.

The school system has hired a Georgia company, Education Logistics, to study the system's 28 bus routes and make recommendations for the board. The contract is being prepared, officials said.

The first step will be collecting data on each route, including the number of students. The second part will be to sequence the bus routes and look at possibly consolidating bus stops.

Some stops are almost door-to-door, board member George Meacham said. That stop-and-start driving creates extra mechanical wear on the buses, including brakes, officials said.

"We have asked them to price that," Director of Schools Martin Ringstaff said. "It seems to be a more contentious area with parents upset if it's raining."

The third step of the plan will be to coordinate the bus routes with the school system's new start and ending times next year.

"We can set any parameters we want them to look at," Ramsey said.

Ramsey said company personnel told him the average annual cost per school bus route nationally is $36,000 to $40,000.

With fears that fuel prices are going up again, school board members are looking for savings from fuel, tires and mechanical needs.