Rising fuel prices force local governments to adjust their budgets | Government and politics

SIOUX CITY – Soaring gas prices aren’t just affecting motorists at the pump. They also negatively impact city, county, and school district budgets in Siouxland.

When staff set the city of Sioux City’s fiscal year 2023 budget a few months ago, chief financial officer Teresa Fitch said they expected gas prices to rise, but not at this rate. The city’s total fuel budget is just over $2 million.

“We didn’t anticipate they would be at this point right now and continue to rise,” Fitch said.

The average price for regular unleaded in Sioux City on Thursday was $3.87 a gallon, up about 50 cents a gallon from the average price a month ago, according to AAA.

Fitch said the city may need to make a budget addition at some point in fiscal year 2023 to deal with rising costs.

“It really depends on what’s going to continue to happen with the prices,” she said.

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The city provides fuel for maintenance trucks, cars for inspection services, large equipment, such as dump trucks or snow plows, as well as police vehicles and buses.

“We have adjusted our (fiscal year 2023) budget to reflect rising fuel prices where they are now,” Fitch said. “Right now we’re at about 61% of our fuel budget used at this point. We have about 42% of our year left, so if we stay at the rate we’re currently at and rates stay where they are at, we expect to be about 3% over budget.”

In the Woodbury County budget, gas and oil prices are combined into each department’s individual budget. Some of the biggest departments, including the sheriff’s office, emergency services and animal control, accounted for drastic increases in fuel prices for the fiscal year 23 budget.

Animal Control increased its gas and oil budget from $1,170 to $1,755, a 50% increase.

Other county departments such as Conservation, Building Services and Elections maintained their budgets at the same level as in FY22.

The Sioux City Community School District began to feel the impact of rising gas prices even before Russia invaded Ukraine, communications director Leslie Heying said.

The district has budgeted $77,500 for gasoline and $267,000 for diesel for the 2021-22 fiscal year. To date, $63,364 of the gasoline budget and $262,544 of the diesel budget have been used, leaving $14,136 in gasoline and $4,456 in diesel to be used through June 30.

Diesel expenses were significantly higher than in FY22, when total expenses were $232,732. In February, the district spent $17,016 more than in February 2021.

The FY23 budget has a 2% increase for fuel, but Heying said that might need to be adjusted due to now higher costs.

“Our FY2023 budget includes a modest 2-3% increase for fuel, but this may need to be adjusted if fuel costs remain higher,” Heying said. “Regardless of fuel costs, the district will continue to serve students as we always do, ensuring bus transportation is available for students who rely on it daily to get to school and activities.”