Soaring gas prices leave Raleigh budget writers guessing
Posted February 21, 2012
Raleigh, N.C. — Soaring gas prices are not only causing problems for drivers. Raleigh officials are also trying to figure out how to budget for police cars, fire engines, garbage trucks and other city-owned vehicles.
“Fuel is a big part of our budget,” Raleigh City Manager Russell Allen said Tuesday.
City officials are working on the next budget, which begins in July. They are looking at past trends and expert forecasts to determine how much to set aside.
“Nobody has a crystal ball, so we do try to be conservative and budget on the high side,” Allen said.
Gary Harris, executive director of the North Carolina Petroleum Marketers Association, said some pundits estimate gas prices could be just over $4 a gallon by the end of April.
If prices top $4 a gallon and stay there, it could put a big pinch on the city's budget.
Allen said the city sets aside about a $500,000 to help cover unexpected spikes in fuel costs. He said the city also has been downsizing vehicles to get better gas mileage.
Raleigh is also using more hybrids and electric plug-in vehicles, as well as vehicles that use propane and compressed natural gas for fuel.
In 2008, the city spent $6.3 million on fuel, officials said. That number was a bit lower in 2009 and 2010, before going back up to $6.2 million last year.
So far this year, the city has spent $4.3 million on fuel.
Driver Tye Owens said even higher gas prices would put a crimp in his spending.
“(I would) maybe go to the movies a little less, not drive as much as you want to. But you do what you got to do,” Owens said.