High gas prices affect public department budgets

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    By Lyman Kirkland

    High gasoline and oil prices are taking larger chunks than expected out of local police and public works department budgets.

    Public departments pay much less for gasoline than customers do at commercial gas pumps because they are not required to pay many of the gas taxes. However, an unanticipated rise in gas prices has caused some worry because budgets were made according to significantly lower 1999 prices.

    In March of last year the Utah County public works department paid 52.9 cents per gallon for unleaded gasoline. This March it paid 104.9, said Paul Holley, motor pool division manager.

    “We haven’t cut back on any of the services, but employees are well aware of the high prices,” Holley said. “Functions still have to go as normal.”

    Gas and oil are hard to budget for because the price can change drastically during the year. Holley said the county faced a similar situation during the Gulf War in 1991 when gas prices rose.

    Since the public works department operates on an enterprise budget, extra money not spent can be carried over to the next year. Low gas prices last year are helping to offset this year’s high prices.

    Pleasant Grove police captain Cody Cullimore said that although his department is also being impacted by high gas prices, it is not being forced to cut back on any operations.

    If prices continue to rise the department will have to readjust its budget, he said.

    On a normal day Pleasant Grove police officers drive an average of 75 to 100 miles.

    The Lindon police department is currently in the process of budgeting. Its budget year starts in July. Lindon Police Chief Tom Paul says about $3,000 has been added to the vehicle-maintenance budget for a several reasons, including the rise in gas prices.

    If gas prices continue to rise, off-duty vehicles may be affected, but regular patrol cars will not, he said.

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