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Fuel hikes hit citzens, officials

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According to figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration for this part of the country, gasoline is up by 99.7 cents from a year ago and diesel has jumped $1.76.7 in the past year.

Those figures match quite well with local numbers.

Lebanon Finance Director Russell Lee said the average prices paid by the city in the first five months of this year show an increase of about 75 cents on gas and $1.15 on diesel over the average for the same period a year ago.

But those numbers can be deceiving, Lee pointed out, because in this case they include a sudden down spike in prices during January 2007 and do not include the current prices, which are $3.53.5 for gas and $4.16 for diesel, not counting taxes since the city is exempt.

He said the price of gasoline for city vehicles is up about 36 percent over this time last year and diesel is up about 56 percent. He also said that while the city has added 30 percent to its fuel budget, no one is sure if that will be enough.

“We talk about what to expect, but not even the experts know,” Lee said. As an example he pointed out that Metro Nashville had to come up with an additional $3 million last year because they created their budget “before it hit the fan.”

Sharon Lackey with the county finance office said she thinks various county agencies are being more careful with gasoline vehicles since the prices have spiked, because for the county gas costs have not gone up as much as would be expected, but diesel costs have.

Gas costs for the county went from $416,801 for 2006-2007 to $429,231for 2007-2008, an increase of only about 3 percent, but diesel costs gained a more substantial 29.8 percent, going from $313,565 in ’06-’07 to $406,921 in ’07-’08.

Lackey said Sheriff Terry Ashe and Wilson Emergency Management Agency Director John Jewell had reported implementing economy measures in their departments.

County Schools Assistant Director Mickey Hall reported that the fuel prices are almost double what they paid a year ago.

The school system paid a total of $598,528.37 for diesel in the ’06-’07 school year and $807,232.50 in ’07-’08, up by 34.8 percent. The gas cost was $59,406.71 in ’06-’07, and $76,233.95 in ’07-’08, up 28.3 percent

Hall did say that part of the difference was caused by growth. The schools used 246,400 gallons of diesel and 27,800 gallons of gas in ’06-’07, and 262,200 gallons of diesel and 32,400 gallons of gas in ’07-’08.

He added, “Rumors say diesel will be $5 this fall, but we don’t really know, of course. I doubt it will go down.”

LSSD has $100,000 budgeted for diesel fuel for the upcoming year, and Director of Schools Sharon Roberts said she thinks that will be enough.

She said the estimate is based on the increases experienced by the district during the last school year. From July ’07- Dec. ’07, the district spent $31, 429.81 on diesel and from Jan. ’08- June ’08 it spent $43, 341.04.

Since the total increased $11,911.23 during last six months of the school year, the budget for diesel costs for 2008-2009 is  $100,000 or a little more than $25,000 more than was spent during ’07-’08.

City of Mt Juliet officials report an increase of 29 to 30 percent in fuel costs as well. City Accounts Administrator Gina Frame said the city spent $64,769.25 in April – June ’07 and $70,986.69 this spring during those same months for gas and diesel combined.

She also said the city has included an increase for fuel in its budget, “We’re hoping it will be enough to cover the costs,” she said.

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