Fuel cost increases hitting local budgets

Fuel cost increases hitting local budgets

By: John Brannon Messenger Staff Reporter

By JOHN BRANNON Messenger Staff Reporter The budgetary tidings wouldn’t have been more sobering had the Bad News Bears delivered the news themselves. Schools, roads and other branches of Obion County government will cost more to operate in fiscal year 2008-09 than this year. The new fiscal year begins July 1. The Obion County Budget Committee is trying to “get a handle” on just how much costs will increase. It is writing a budget for FY 2008-09 to submit to the Obion County Commission for an up or down vote. The committee, with county commissioner Danny Jowers presiding, convened at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Obion County Courthouse. The purpose of the meeting was to receive requests for funding from various branches of county government. One by one, representative officials stood before the committee to present their budget requests and answer questions. Some of the figures quoted struck the committee with jaw-dropping impact. Gary Lofton, superintendent of the Obion County Highway Department, stunned all when he warned that the price of diesel fuel will escalate from $4.50 to $5.35 a gallon. All the department’s vehicles are diesel-powered. A comparison of diesel fuel expenses tells the tale. In its 2007-08 budget, the department allocated $175,000 for diesel fuel. In his funding request for his 2008-09 budget, Lofton is asking for $350,000 for diesel fuel. If diesel escalates to $5.35 a gallon, he will need $449,000. Other products used by the department have also increased in price. They include: • Concrete. Up from $7 a yard to $10 a yard. • Liquid asphalt. Up from $1.34 a gallon to $2 a gallon. • Culverts. Up 17 percent. • Hot mix asphalt. Up from $53.65 to $63.18. • Motor oil. Up from $350 a barrel to $500 a barrel. • Parts. Up 20 to 25 percent. • Rock. Up from $3 a ton to $7 a ton. All in all, the highway department needs a total of $6.7 million for its 2008-09 operations, a $1 million increase over its 2007-08 budget of $5.7 million. And then there’s the Obion County School System. The entirety of details of a budget request submitted by Obion County Director of Schools David Huss cannot be included in this brief report. Increases in food and transportation costs serve as examples. Huss told the committee he anticipates the cost of food for school cafeteria purposes to increase 40 percent in school year 2008-09. And price increases are proposed for breakfast and lunch — a 30-cent increase in the price of lunch and a 25-cent increase in the price of breakfast at elementary schools, and a 35-cent increase in the price of lunch and a 25-cent increase in the price of breakfast at middle and high schools. Some of the cafeteria costs are defrayed by state and federal funds. Huss projects revenues to increase from $1.8 million this fiscal year to $2 million in FY 2008-09. In the area of student transportation, the school system expended an estimated $1.6 million in school year 2007-08. In school year 2008-09, it will expend an estimated $1.7 million. In school year 2007-08, the school system spent $239,885 for diesel fuel and $44,984 for gasoline for its fleet of vehicles. For school year 2008-09, with the elimination of two bus routes, Huss projects a need of 85,000 gallons of diesel fuel at a total cost of $331,500 and 17,000 gallons of gasoline at a cost of $59,620. In school year 2007-08, which ends June 30, the school system has expended $239,000 for diesel fuel. Huss said the Obion County School Board has not voted on the proposed budget. It will do so at a called meeting later this month. Published in The Messenger 6.11.08

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