High gas prices impacting budgets

Government, school search for solutions

Keywords: Poll question,
Shop technician Jack Coleman finishes fueling an Re-1 bus. Enlargephoto

Journal/Sam Green

Shop technician Jack Coleman finishes fueling an Re-1 bus.

With gas prices hovering around $4 a gallon, local governments and school districts are also feeling the crunch caused by the high prices.

The price of fuel resulted in the city of Cortez increasing its fees several months ago from $14.50 to $15 a month for trash pickup for its residential customers.

City Manager Shane Hale said the increase was minimal but added the increase was because of the cost of fuel.

He also said there is little the city can do to curb the cost of fuel or find ways to save without cutting its services, which, he added, is really not an option.

City Public Works Director Jack Nickerson said the rising costs of fuel has no impact on the work that needs to be done.

“We don’t change how we do business,” he said.

Nickerson said the city budgets for fuel on a yearly basis and allowances are not made until the end of the year if the budgeted amount was exceeded.

“We don’t raise our budget (in the middle of the year),” he said. “We set what we assume will be the average price. It’s a guess.”

He also said if fuel prices were to exceed the budgeted amount, this would be addressed at the end of the year with a revised budgeted amount.

Now, if gas prices were to really skyrocket from the current prices, Nickerson said a construction project would likely have to be shelved so the city could concentrate on its regular work.

Hale said the city budgeted $255,000 so far this year which is $5,000 more than the budgeted amount for last year. So far, the city has spent $55,402 on fuel this year, and at the same time last year fuel costs totaled $55,106.

Hale said part of the reason for the low cost was that there was a lot less snow to plow this year.

Nickerson said fuel prices that are close to $4 a gallon now, has not changed much in the last few years.

County Administrator Ashton Harrison said the county is trying to save costs while at the same trying to maintain services to residents.

Harrison said the county commission, when creating its budget for fuel, sets the amount that will likely far exceed what it will end up spending.

“If we think it is going to increase we budget more for that (cost),” he said.

But there are a few ways to save funds when it comes to fuel, though Harrison said the savings would be minimal.

As an example, Harrison mentioned that the suburban the county owns would not be used for trips where only one to two people were travelling and instead would likely drive the Chevrolet Impala that the county also owns, which Harrison said is more efficient.

He also said the road department uses most of the budgeted fuel at $500,000 a year while the fuel for the sheriff’s department is budgeted at $76,500.

The Montezuma-Cortez School District Re-1 sets its fuel price on what diesel and unleaded gasoline is selling for on May 15, said Michael Canzona, chief of operations for the district.

He said there are a few times where the Re-1 can adjust its budget when it comes to fuel costs.

Canzona said the Re-1 can revise its fuel budget at the beginning of the school year in late August and again in December.

“We will take the opportunity to see if those figures are still accurate,” he said.

Canzona said the school district is also looking at ways to save on fuel costs.

He added the Re-1 is currently working with consultant Bruce Little from the Colorado Department of Education on ways to save fuel costs.

“We are looking at the effectiveness of all the bus routes,” Canzona said. “We may adjust some of the routes and compromise some of the pickup times. We are taking a look at routes being different and shorter.”

Michael Maresh can be reached at michaelm@cortezjournal.com