Gas and diesel prices hurting the state as well | NevadaAppeal.com

Gas and diesel prices hurting the state as well

Photos by BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Nevada Highway Patrol trooper Larry Barnes fills up his vehicle at the Nevada Department of Transportation yard on Friday.
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With three full months left in the fiscal year, the state of Nevada has spent all but $1.3 million of its $10 million total budget for gasoline and diesel fuel.

The biggest user is the Nevada Department of Transportation, which has a total of nearly $4.6 million budgeted for fuel.

“Now it’s going to be costing us about $6.3 million for fuel,” said Robert Chisel, administrative services officer for NDOT. “Right now that’s probably a low estimate because diesel and everything is shooting through the roof. We still have April, May and June to go.”

Of that total, he said $4.3 million is diesel to run NDOT’s trucks, graders, snowplows and other large road maintenance equipment. Diesel this week was more than $4 a gallon.

“What kills us is those trucks,” he said. “When it snows, they’ve got to be out there plowing.”

Beyond the fuel budget itself, he said the state may get hit by contractors because some of the construction contracts have fuel cost escalation clauses, which could add to the deficit.

Fortunately, according to Director of Administration Andrew Clinger, NDOT depends on the Highway Fund to pay those costs, so gas prices won’t add to the burden on the state’s general fund.

NDOT is expected to ask the Interim Finance Committee to transfer highway fund money to the fuels category to cover the amount needed.

The second largest user of fuel and largest user of gasoline among state agencies is the Nevada Highway Patrol.

But Col. Chris Perry said because he and the Legislative Counsel Bureau anticipated they might need more than originally budgeted, he received an enhancement totaling nearly $450,000 from the 2007 Legislature.

Counting that, he said he has $1.9 million in this year’s fuel budget.

“We’ll probably be within $25-$30,000 of the costs but I think we’re going to make it,” he said.

Perry said unfortunately, most of his fuel costs are not controllable because troopers have to drive to do their job. He said troopers in urban areas log more than 25,000 miles a year while those in the rural areas may put 45,000 miles or more on their patrol car in a year.

He said, unfortunately, the vehicles they need to use don’t get the best mileage – between the SUVs and Ford patrol cars, an average of just 14 miles per gallon.

NHP too is funded by the Highway Fund, not the general fund.

Trooper Larry Barnes, interviewed while filling his patrol car Friday, said he works in the Carson City area and averages anywhere from 100-160 miles on the road each day.

“When I worked in Tonopah, I used to drive over 200 miles a day,” he said.

The motor pool is budgeted for $755,500 this year. Administrator Keith Wells said he is asking the Legislative Interim Finance Committee to move about $200,000 out of his reserves into the fuel category to cover a projected $1 million cost.

That will mean delaying purchases of new vehicles for the motor pool, which has about 850 vehicles. But the alternative would be raising the fees the motor pool charges state agencies, which are already in financial straits because of the governor’s orders to cut their budgets.

Wells, who described his agency as the state’s rental car company, said he is already seeing a reduction in travel by agencies.

Wells said those vehicles are mostly assigned to agencies for employees who need to travel daily. His biggest customer, with more than 200 vehicles, is Parole and Probation.

He said his office is also encouraging state workers to carpool to meetings as much as possible to cut costs. He said the Motor Pool is buying some natural gas and hybrid vehicles.

“”We aggressively cut costs on everything we do,” he said.

Clinger said his office and the motor pool will be looking at agencies to determine whether some of those assigned vehicles are really necessary. If not, they could be returned to the motor pool to make up for the reduced number of new purchases.

But, he said, overspending isn’t an option.

“They’ve got to find a way to make it work within their budgeted revenues.”

Other big users outside the motor pool are Forestry, Parks and Wildlife, primarily diesel users, and corrections, primarily gasoline users. Corrections is largest on that list with a total fuel budget this year of $511,461.

NHP and most other major fuel users fill up at NDOT’s maintenance stations.

Chisel said NDOT has 52 stations with gas and diesel pumps across the state. Because they buy in bulk and charge only what it costs to provide gas and diesel, he said NDOT is able to provide itself and state agencies gasoline at about $2.80 a gallon.

Wells said that is far less than the $3.29 a gallon the state was paying through its commercial supplier but that, in some cases, it’s not practical for an agency employee to fill up at NDOT.

Clinger said with that much difference in the cost, his office will be working with NDOT to make sure state vehicles fill at NDOT’s pumps as much as possible.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.

By the numbers

The average annual cost of driving is up nearly $300 over 2007.

The overall cost of owning and operating a new vehicle is 54.1 cents per mile, up 1.9 cents from 2007.

For a car driven 15,000 miles at this higher rate, that amounts to $8,121 each year an increase of $298 from 2007’s estimate of $7,823.

The annual average cost of driving a small sedan is $6,320 per year, while a large sedan costs $9,769 per year. The annual expense of owning and operating a typical minivan is $8,644 per year versus $10,448 for a four-wheel-drive mid-size SUV.

-Source: 2008 edition of “Your Driving Costs” study published by AAA

Cost per gallon in Carson City

3.35 SaveMart, College Parkway at N. Carson St.

3.36 Costco, 700 Old Clear Creek Road

3.36 Mirastar, Highway 395 at Topsy Lane

3.37 ARCO, 720 S. Carson St.

3.37 ARCO, 1017 N. Carson St.

3.38 ARCO, 4190 S. Carson St

3.45 Gas & Save, 1360 S. Carson St.

3.45 Quik Stop, 3006 N Roop St.

3.49 Woody’s, 4385 S Carson St.

3.50 Chevron, 915 Mica and Indian drives

– Prices are current as of Saturday. Information obtained from gasbuddy.com