City government not spared from high gas prices

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 29, 2005

Gas prices have risen so steadily and rapidly that consumers can barely claim "sticker shock" anymore, "sticker anger" might be more accurate.

But some government agencies continue to feel the burn at the pump, and may even need to start cutting back services.

In the past week the price of fuel has jumped 17.9 cents, according to the AAA.

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The average price of self-serve regular gasoline has set a new record high price in

America every day since Aug. 8, when the price of regular reached $2.339 per gallon.

Currently, the average price of a gallon of regular, unleaded, self-serve gasoline sits at $2.538.

Comparatively, the average price of fuel at this same time last year was $1.869 per self-serve regular gallon.

Those jumps can put a hurt on the pocketbook, but they can be especially harmful to those who buy gas in high quantities, such as the City of Ironton.

Finance director Cindy Anderson creates gas budgets based on previous usage, so she simply added a couple percent to last year's gas totals to figure the city's budget for fuel in 2005.

In 2004, it would have been impossible for Anderson to predict how high the prices would soar this summer.

The city uses 3,300 gallons of fuel every month on average, with bills that range between $7,500 and $7,700. Anderson estimates that the city will spend around $1,200 more with the current escalation in prices.

"We weren't expecting anything like $2.55," Anderson said. "It's going to come out of cash reserves of whatever fund is connected (to each department.)"

That means that water and sewer departments will have to pay for their fuel from their own general funds, which could mean a reduction in services if the agencies need to pay more to fuel up.

"If it comes down to it, it's going to mean cutting down on your operating costs to pay for your fuel costs," Anderson said.

This is especially troubling for the city police and fire departments, which draw their funding for fuel from the city's general fund, which is already in deep trouble.

However, with gas prices continuing to skyrocket, there is no sign that city agencies will soon get the relief they need.