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1:55 PM Sun, Feb. 17th

County, city fleets, school district fleets adjusting to fluctuating fuel prices

Kingman and Mohave County governments and the Kingman Unified School District cushion fluctuating fuel prices by buying in bulk, but they still expect increases during the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Although gasoline prices have decreased a dime per gallon recently, Kingman Public Works Director Jack Kramer said he still expects city departments to increase their fuel budgets about 20 percent for fiscal 2003-2004.

Kramer's earlier forecast was a 40 to 60 percent increase for fuel.

He said he will have a better idea next week when he receives his next load of fuel.

The city buys a truckload of 7,500 to 8,500 gallons per month, Kramer said.

Kramer's counterpart in Mohave County, Mike Hendrix, said county government plans to increase by 25 percent the mileage reimbursement rate charged county offices and departments that use vehicles in the motor pool.

Hendrix said he expects the county's overall fuel budget to increase from $1.2 million during the current fiscal year to $1.5 million for 2003-2004.

Both the city and Mohave County buy fuel at bulk prices established under state contracts.

The school district buys fuel in bulk at rates based on oil industry standards, Finance Director Terry White said.

Hendrix said the bulk rate for the county comes to $1.30 per gallon for gas, which he described as "a heck of a price."

Buying in bulk enables the school district and other agencies to cushion price fluctuations.

"You do hedge against price increases when you buy in bulk," White said.

"This year we are really not being impacted as severely as other entities because we kind of planned for it."

The district will spend about $272,000 during the current fiscal year, which comes to about $1.55 per gallon, White said.

He said a 10-cent increase per gallon means a $17,500 increase in the fuel budget.

The district buys fuels for a year, he added.

By contrast, the county buys 3,000 to 5,000 gallons of fuel on an "as-needed" basis, county fleet manager Noval Wright said.

The county and city might take measures next fiscal year to reduce fuel costs, Hendrix and Kramer said.

"We are looking at trying to consolidate our fleet size," Hendrix said.

"It reduces the age of the fleet and the average mileage.

It makes it healthier and more manageable."

Kramer said the city might try to reduce costs by placing more city employees in a truck and relying more on car-pooling.

"We'll probably park equipment on city property rather than drive it back to the yard every time," he said.

He said the city has a fleet of more than 200 vehicles, including fire and police vehicles.

The county has a fleet of 239 vehicles assigned to various departments and 35 in the motor pool, according to a report that Hendrix submitted to the county supervisors last month.

Departments pay for their vehicles and fuel out of special funds such as Highway User Revenue Funds, he said.

The fleet for the school district consists of 83 buses and a pool of cars and 15-passenger vans, White said.

He added the buses rack up a combined 1.3 million miles a year and the other vehicles a combined 130,000 miles.

Combined, the vehicles use about 175,000 gallons of gas and diesel fuel a year, White said.

Each county vehicle averages about 12,000 to 16,000 miles per year, Hendrix said.

Patrol vehicles owned by the Mohave County Sheriff's Office average about 30,000 miles per year, sheriff's spokesman Jarrod Lyman said.

Kramer said city vehicles rack up about 1.5 million miles per year and that the city buys about 100,000 gallons of gas and diesel fuel a year.

Kramer said diesel fuel increased from 94 cents a gallon on March 1, 2002, to $1.51 per gallon as of March 10 this year.

He said unleaded gas increased from $1.04 per gallon March 4, 2002, to $1.65 per gallon as of March 16 this year.