Gas Prices and the County Budget

By Max Resnik

April 12, 2011 Updated Apr 12, 2011 at 6:13 PM EDT

COLUMBIA CITY, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – Dramatic increases in gas prices could possibly limit the number of services a county is able to provide to its residents.

One thing counties do have on their side is the ability to bid for gas. As a result of having dozens of county cars, trucks, vans and other motorized vehicles, counties like Whitley and Huntington can pay, if they choose, a fixed rate on a gallon of gas.

There is a difference between how these two counties bid however. In Whitley County, gas is bid on a month-to-month basis. What Whitley County pays in April will more than likely differ than what it pays in May to fill up everything from Whitley County Consolidated Schools buses to the Whitley County Sheriff’s Department’s cars. Right now, Whitley County pays $3.08 per gallon gas, a far cry from what any individual pays for gas. They also happen to use tens of thousands of gallons of gas per month.

As summer approaches so do even higher gas prices. Some estimates show gas as high as $4.50 per gallon in the peak of summer. Tom Rethlake, Whitley County Commissioner, says having to bid on gas near $5.00 could really hurt Whitley County. For the moment though, he says they are right within their budget.

Today he said, “We're going to have enough fuel to do the roads and highways and things so we'll make it through. All these little surprises come along, but some way we'll make it through the good times and the hard times.” Rethlake says the amount of revenue received from the state from the gas tax could also help in road repairs.

In Huntington County, bidding is done every February. Prices are locked-in for an entire year. This year, Huntington County vehicles from an array of services provided by the county, pay $2.92 per gallon.

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