GLOVERSVILLE - With gas prices up by more than a dollar per gallon from a year ago - now over $4 per gallon for regular unleaded - people who rely on transportation in the working work say something has to give.
Big transportation providers in both the public and private sectors are anxious, waiting to see when this latest gas-price escalation that's playing havoc with their budgets will reverse, or at least level off.
Fulton County Sheriff Thomas Lorey, who maintains a fleet of 17 vehicles driven daily by deputies all over the county, hadn't looked much at his gas budget ledger.
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Randy Decker of Gloversville fills up his car’s gas tank at the Getty station on East Fulton Street in the town of Johnstown last week.
"I'm afraid to look," he said.
But when he finally took a peek, he found the Sheriff's Department had spent $16,837 of about $60,000 budgeted for fuel.
Lorey said county government prices for gas may increase in subsequent quarters. But, he asks, "Who knows?"
I'm relatively sure I'll run out of [budgeted] fuel by the end of the year," he said.
Lorey said he often reminds his deputies to turn their engines off if they have to stop on patrol or have an extended stay at a community-policing effort. He said he's sure he's going to have to go back to supervisors to transfer funding to keep up with fuel costs, but curtailing regular law enforcement efforts throughout the county may not be an option.
"I'm hesitant to tell [deputies] to actually stop patrolling," the sheriff said.
Fulton County Budget Director Alice Kuntzsch said the county maintains a fuel depot on Route 29 behind the County Services Complex in Johnstown. From those pumps, gas is dispensed for 27 county departments' vehicles, as well as several other entities that contract with the county to utilize the depot, including schools.
The county Highways and Facilities Department, run by Superintendent Mark Yost, reimburses the county departments for the fuel they use at the depot. Kuntzsch said that with gas prices being an "unknown" in 2011, the departments will have to stay in close contact with Yost.
"They're going to have get with Mark and make sure they're budgeting at the same levels," she said.
Kuntzsch said her message to county departments about gas is to "conserve as much as possible." In the meantime, she said the county waits for possibly more bad fuel news, as a June 1 start of the county budget process for 2012 looms.
"Right now, it's really up in the air," Kuntzsch said. "It's speculation where it's going to go. Some say it's going to be up to $5 a gallon by Memorial Day."
The private sector isn't handling the high prices of gas any better than the public sector.
John Antonucci, who owns Antonucci's Wholesale Produce Inc. and Seafood on South Main Street in Gloversville, says the high price of diesel fuel and gas for his 18 vehicles definitely hurts his business in many different ways. His trucks fuel up at Shepard Oil in Johnstown.
"It's a huge deal," Antonucci said. "It's $10,000 more a month [the company had paid] for fuel the past three or four months."
The local business handles the transportation of a variety of products, including fresh fruit and vegetable, seafood and fresh eggs, which require refrigeration.
Antonucci said his company also is being impacted by freight costs, which are increasing by thousands of dollars from companies that ship products to Gloversville from California and other locations. Lettuce costs him $2 more per case, he said.
He said many food-service companies tack on a delivery or fuel surcharge tacked on to regular costs to their vendors. He said Antonucci's has resisted that, but may have to implement a similar charge.
"We may to down the road," Antonucci said. "It's [high fuel prices] definitely eating the profits up."
Gloversville Enlarged School District Transportation Transportation Supervisor Pete Brenan said higher gas prices haven't yet impacted his district.
"Not right now," Brenan said. "It will kill us next year."
He explained that the district's fuel prices are locked in now, but during the summer, a new price - likely a higher one - will have to be negotiated for the next school year.
The average school bus gets about seven miles per gallon, according to the American School Bus Council.
Brenan said the district may have to look at cutting some "extra runs" if gas prices keep climbing, but decisions on that must ultimately be made by the Board of Education.
"I'm watching it all the time right now," he said.
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.