April 12, 2005
As gas prices continue to rise steeply, Scottsdale and its school districts are being forced to pump extra cash into their budgets for fuel. Transportation officials with the city and Scottsdale and Paradise Valley unified school districts have increased their projected fuel costs dramatically for fiscal 2005-06.
"In recent years while we saw some price hikes, it came back down again," Scottsdale financial services manager Craig Clifford said. "We just don’t see it coming back below $2 (per gallon) again."
On Monday, AAA Arizona reported the average price of gasoline was $2.37 in Scottsdale and $2.33 per gallon in the rest of the East Valley.
Scottsdale’s fleet management department had to dip into a reserve fund after going about $300,000 over budget on fuel this year.
Now, officials are making sure they’re ready for the higher prices next fiscal year, which begins July 1, said Cathy Eley, secretary of fleet management. The city has added $873,490 to its fuel budget, a 55 percent jump, the city’s budget proposal shows.
School buses suck down fuel at a rate of 6 miles per gallon, adding to the enormous bill, Scotts- dale Unified transportation director Dan Shearer said.
The district is now budgeting for a gas cost of $2.50 per gallon all school year, which will ensure enough fuel money is in the budget, Shearer said.
Scottsdale Unified allotted $815,000 for gas this year and already plans to spend $900,000 next school year, estimating the cost at $3 per gallon.
In Paradise Valley, gas prices might push the school district’s budget into the red, transportation director Jeff Cook said. Making matters worse, Cook said, a fuel budget request for next school year he turned in months ago now appears too low.
"We’ll probably have to make some kind of adjustments," Cook said.
Despite the rising prices, Eley said the city is not looking into changing its reliance on gas.
Thirty-four percent of Scottsdale’s fleet runs on alternative fuel — bio-diesel and compressed natural gas — and budget records show officials hope to convert up to 70 percent by the end of next fiscal year, Eley said. Even though many city vehicles can run on alternative fuel, they often run on gasoline as well.
While natural gas is less expensive than unleaded gas, bio-diesel costs more, she said. So the city will still rely on gasoline unless it cannot obtain the fuel.
"Supply hasn’t been an issue, not like last year," Eley said, referring to the pipeline break in 2003.