Rising fuel costs restrict budgets

Jordan Jacobo

When the trading price of crude oil futures exceeded $114 per barrel on Tuesday more than doubling the price from three years ago, Terry Wymore of Facilities Services was doing his homework.

Wymore, the administrative services manager, has the increasingly vital job of projecting the school’s fuel budget. He reads market projections for oil prices for the coming year and manages Facilities Services’ funding, sometimes cutting from other parts of the department to fix a discrepancy between the fuel budget and actual costs.

The average price for regular gasoline in Oregon was $3.52 per gallon on April 15, according to www.gasbuddy.com. One year ago, it dipped to $3.06 per gallon. Five years ago it was $1.70 per gallon.

Wymore knows firsthand the heavy-handed effects of climbing prices at the pump. In the past four years, he has attempted to manage fuel expenditures that have risen more than 70 percent.

“The maximum amount we can increase (Linfield’s) budget is three percent,” Wymore said. “Anything more comes out of another account.”

Wymore projects the total fuel consumption for 2008-09 to end up around 17,800 gallons for a cost of $60,000, which includes use of the campus fleet, maintenance equipment and safety vehicles. Budget appropriations are only $56,400, so Wymore has the task of trimming the funding in other areas.

“It’s kind of a shot in the dark,” he said. “We’re really cutting funds, and we have to make some difficult decisions.”

According to Wymore’s records, the cost of fuel for Linfield has increased dramatically in the past few years despite a consistent amount of fuel consumption. Wymore estimates $52,300 will be spent on fuel this year, a $10,000 increase from two years ago. 

John Hall, senior director of Facilities Services, said financing an entire year of unpredictable fuel costs takes planning and apt forecasting because appropriations are finalized in October.

Getting the cheapest prices is paramount to staying on budget. A 600 gallon storage tank on campus is used as often as possible to avoid the outside market for gasoline. Fuel purchases for the tank made at a Shell vendor receive a 10 cent discount per gallon, Hall said.

“We haven’t curtailed transportation because of the rising costs, and I don’t think we will,” he said. “If someone at the school wants to rent a van, they will be able to.”

But Transportation Manager Len Gadbury said the budget tightening does have a real effect. Facilities Services supplies often get skimmed to pay for fuel, she said.

“I think it’s had quite an impact, especially in department usage for fleet vehicles,” Gadbury said. “They have cut back considerably on academic meetings and field trips.”

Gadbury said the most notable change has come from the Office of Admissions, as they have reduced the use of the school’s fleet.

For athletics, the high cost of travel has become an ever-present reality. Institutional charges for van rentals and surcharges for bus travel are imposed on the sports budget to compensate for gas and diesel prices Athletic Director Scott Carnahan said.

Use of the athletic buses, which run on diesel, costs $1 per mile, and the large bus has a fuel economy of only six miles per gallon. Diesel is even more expensive than gasoline, averaging more than $4 per gallon. Aside from this, the athletic department pays extra for outside drivers and maintenance costs.

“It’s a budget issue, and it’s an ongoing problem,” Carnahan said. “We get a three percent budget increase while gas prices go up 10 percent or more. We’re losing ground.”

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