Routt County Road & Bridge mechanic Jason Bongiorno fuels up a plow truck Friday morning at the country shop in Steamboat Springs. Skyrocketing diesel fuel costs and a big winter have led the city and country to exceed fuel budgets.

Photo by John F. Russell

Routt County Road & Bridge mechanic Jason Bongiorno fuels up a plow truck Friday morning at the country shop in Steamboat Springs. Skyrocketing diesel fuel costs and a big winter have led the city and country to exceed fuel budgets.

Gas prices draining local, county budgets

Rising oil costs, record snowfall shattering expense projections

Advertisement

— Record snowfall and soaring fuel costs have set both Routt County and the city of Steamboat Springs on a course to overshoot their 2008 budgets for transit and road maintenance.

According to a financial outlook report that county Finance Director Dan Strnad presented to the Routt County Board of Commissioners last week, diesel prices have increased to $3.65 a gallon, $1.51 above what the county budgeted for 2008. When annualized, the 70 percent increase results in a $225,000 increase in the county's 2008 budget for its road and bridge department. The cost of driving vehicles in the county's motor pool has jumped 21 percent higher than budgeted, from 47 cents a mile to 57 cents a mile. That increase puts the county on pace to spend $115,000 more than expected at year's end.

Similar factors are impacting the city's budget. Only four months into the year, the city already has spent more than 50 percent of its fuel budgets for both Steamboat Springs Transit and its street fleet of snowplows and other equipment. The city budgeted $208,500 for street fleet fuel in all of 2008, but already had used $132,658 as of April 30. SST has a $261,600 budget for fuel and had used $148,983 by April 30.

"I don't think it's going to get better," city Finance Director Lisa Rolan said. "I don't think we've hit that plateau for fuel. I really don't. It would be nice if we had."

At three Steamboat locations, commercially available diesel fuel was selling for $4.16, $4.19 and $4.26 Friday, according to AAA Colorado.

Budget overages would come out of city reserves, Rolan said, unless the city ends up saving money in other areas.

"At the end of the year, we'll have to look at where it stands to determine if it has to come out of reserves or can be transferred," she said.

Strnad said fuel is not the only product whose price is rising at an impressive clip. For example, Strnad said one ton of asphalt cost the county $45 in 2004. It now costs $105.

"We're talking some big-time increases here," Strnad said. "Our balance is really being affected by this."

Without a new revenue source, Strnad said, the county will not be able to maintain its existing level of service in 2009.

"Given our revenue sources, we're not going to get that," he said.

$2.3 million gap

County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said the commissioners will not take any immediate action on Strnad's report but said it will color their consideration of the 2009 budget. She also said she hopes the report will influence the work of a citizens' committee looking at options for improving county roadways.

The committee is being formed after a property tax increase that would have raised $3.3 million or more a year for road improvements and other capital projects was defeated by a 2-to-1 margin at the polls in November 2007. While a leading public criticism of the proposal was its lack of a sunset provision, Stahoviak said Strnad's numbers show the county needs a permanent increase in revenue to keep up with costs.

"The cost for the ongoing maintenance of our roads continues to escalate more than we can put in our budget to pay for," she said.

Strnad's outlook shows that if the county were to continue at the same level of service in 2009, its expenses would exceed its revenues by $2.3 million. Strnad said Routt County has had a policy of funding its road and bridge system 10 years into the future, but at its current level of funding, the county could only maintain its road and bridges through 2011 - or 2015 if bridges are excluded.

"That's five years we lost in just the first four months of this year," Strnad said.

Strnad said the budget crunch is occurring despite the county's healthy revenue increases from sources such as property and sales taxes. But the county's interest revenues are not increasing. Repeated rate cuts by the Federal Reserve have the county looking at a $450,000 decrease in interest revenue in 2008 and a $551,000 decrease in 2009.

"I've never really seen these kind of increases at the county," Strnad, who has been with the county for two decades, said of the skyrocketing costs. "This oil cost thing is just amazing right now. : My crystal ball - it just didn't do that good this year. That's all I can say."

Comments

spukomy 6 years, 7 months ago

Better start aiming high if your budget includes fuel. Or any kind of grain product.

0

colowoodsman 6 years, 7 months ago

Not to worry- our brilliant commisioners have agreed to sign a letter to put the brakes on oil shale development. Why develop local oil reserves when we can make the Arabs richer and drive on washboard, potholed roads at home!!!

0

bloggyblog 6 years, 7 months ago

blog thinks now is the time to kick our oil addiction. not saying its going to be an easy transition but with a little personel sacrifice and some good old american inguinuity we can kick our dependency on foreign crude. if we sink our teeth into new technologies anything is possible and the future looks bright. if we ignore the problem and keep our heads buried in the sand, blog thinks things are only going to get worse. natural gas seems like a logical solution to our immediate problems.

0

ybul 6 years, 7 months ago

Have you actually studied the Oil Shale preliminary impact statement? The long term impacts of the project as it will irrevocably alter the landscape in certain areas, like north west of rifle where there is a well every eighty acres and power lines everywhere.

I think a much longer term solution is to require hydronic geothermal heating in all new construction and incentives for retrofits, wind turbines from North Dakota to the pan handle of Texas (which could meet the entire US' energy needs now and into the future), combine some form of pure carbon, with hydrogen extracted via electrolysis (wind power), and combined under heat (solar concentrators) and pressure like the Germans did during WWII. This would allow the current distribution systems to remain in place and not force old technology to be discarded.

0

colowoodsman 6 years, 7 months ago

ybul-I sympatize with your situation. This may get tied up in 'water court' for years. I think our local water rights are senior enough that we do not have to worry. As grannyrett suggests the real sollution is conservation of energy resources. I belive that this sould include discouraging such wasteful pactices as flying skier thousands of miles for vacations when they could ski closer to home.

0

id04sp 6 years, 7 months ago

The county could start addressing this "cost" problem by billing the State employees who work in the county-constructed justice center about $10 per day for parking. It would take a long time to get our ill-spent and unnecessary $18,000,000 back, but it would be a start. Such a fee would generate at least $10,000 - $15,000 a year, and could go directly into county vehicle fuel tanks.

0

MtnWarlock 6 years, 7 months ago

How about this idea! Take away the privilege of using county vehicles for personal usage! That's a start!

0

bubba 6 years, 7 months ago

So... without getting into the discussion of who should get their power from where, or who should do what; does anyone find it odd that the 2008 budget is 1.51/gallon over for a gallon of gas at 3.65? So the budget figured diesel or gas or something would be 2.04? Wasn't it already above that range last year when the budget was being built?

0

ybul 6 years, 7 months ago

That does seem like very poor planing, budgeting for fuel at such a low price. However, they probably do not pay taxes on their fuel, which is about $.50., and the above mentioned markup for fuel.

0

colowoodsman 6 years, 7 months ago

ybul-I share your distaste for the power lines northwest of Rifle even though I helped build one of them. The wells you refer to are probably gas and oil wells and have nothing to do with the oil shale project which I belive is on the Roan Plateau. The bright side of this picture is that as foreign oil becomes more costly other forms of energy become more feasible. Then to there is the renewable energy 'windfall' that Mother Nature is delivering to us in the form of beetle killed trees. This is an excellent opportunity for Routt Co to diversify its economic base and enter into the renewable energy field at the same time.

0

ybul 6 years, 7 months ago

I understand that the wells are not the oil shale project, just an example of the blight the oil industry creates. The 2005 Energy policy bill, forbids ranchers from suing for loss' created by frac drilling process' which contaminate their water supplies. That really makes me mad, that the oil giants get a free pass at my expense!!!!!

The Post had an article today, about how the Shell has bought up water rights and land in the area in order to process the oil shale.

200,000 acre feet of water, or enough for a city of 2.5 million, kiss the surplus Colorado river flows goodbye. All of which could have been directed to much more sustainable uses. I am glad I voiced objections to this fact. Couple this with LA, Vegas or Phoenix, having hired the top water attorneys in Colorado and I believe Wyoming and we could shortly be in a bad position on the western slope.

0

grannyrett 6 years, 7 months ago

<p>water4gas.com have some friends who did this and they swear it works great-doubled their mileage.

0

justathought 6 years, 7 months ago

County has they're own pumps, they don't pay the mark-up at the stations like we do.

0

SilverSpoon 6 years, 7 months ago

what happened to the hybrid busses that use half of the fuel? Another empty commitment.

0

SilverSpoon 6 years, 7 months ago

Just pay attention to our recent history, oil was just under $100/barrel for a very long time. Now they pushed it up to $120, and CNN was giving praise for the "relief" of going back down to $115. The only relief would be if it went back down to $30/barrel. Which is not happening, ever, even with mythical oil shale. Like ybul said, wind turbines from north dakota, to texas is the solution. We just need to eliminate the clout created by big oil and coal.

0

grannyrett 6 years, 7 months ago

<p>runacaronwater.com just bought the book. I am going to try it. Just can't handle over $4 a gallon for diesel.

0

grannyrett 6 years, 7 months ago

run_a_car_with_water.com

Wrong address above. Sorry

0

grannyrett 6 years, 7 months ago

It may be a big energy non-crisis, but it cost me $75 to fill up my pick-up-just one tank.

0

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.