Gas prices puts sheriff#039;s budget closer to empty

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 29, 2005

Do you think your automobile fuel bill is higher than normal? Try keeping a fleet of emergency vehicles on the road.

Lawrence County Sheriff Tim Sexton said he projects his office will spend $79,000 this year on gasoline for sheriff's cruisers - that's an increase of $17,000 over what was spent on gasoline last year.

The soaring cost of gasoline is in keeping with a trend started a few years ago. Sexton said in 2003, the fuel bill for his office was $47,912.

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In 2004, that figure jumped to $62,000.

"My projection is based on what I've already spent the first eight months of the year," Sexton said. "Of course, if gas prices decrease the final figure won't be so high but I don't expect that to happen."

Sexton said that additional money is coming from an already tight budget and he will likely have to move money from other accounts in his department to keep the cruisers running. Sexton said in spite of the costs, he really has no choice.

"Emergency services are needed, expected, and we just have to be there when people call us," Sexton said. "If people need us, we have to be there."

Money to buy gasoline typically comes the supplies' line item in the sheriff's budget - the same account that is used to pay for food and medicine for inmates at the Lawrence County Jail. Food and medicine for inmates is mandated by the state, meaning the sheriff has no choice but to provide them for people who are incarcerated, and there are strict guidelines on what constitutes a meal and what doesn't.

Sexton said he tried a couple of years ago to save money by bidding out his gasoline purchase to a bulk distributor but only received one bid.

He has also sent out memos to his staff, asking them to cut fuel use whenever possible.