Gas prices forcing Harrisburg to reevaluate fuel budget

HARRISBURG, AR (KAIT) – The city of Harrisburg has spent more than $28,000 in gasoline so far this year, according to Mayor Randy Mills. He said the city is approximately 20% over the fuel budget through July and with higher fuel prices reported recently, the city is looking to for ways to save.

"Of course we budgeted more for gas this year, but we didn't budget quite enough. We're up some 23 percent city wide as far as dollars in gas we've paid for this year," said Mills.

According to figures provided to Region 8 News, the Harrisburg Street Department is 12% over budget, compared to the police department at 26% over budget and the water and gas department at 23%. Mills said all departments are over budget because the cost of fuel has exceeded their projections.

"It's a shot in the dark as far as how you budget for this stuff, and our tax revenue is down this year," said Mills. "We're going to have to budget for it. When we sit down here in two or three months, we will budget for an increase in fuel prices."

Mills said he's requesting all city employees to save money and fuel when possible.

"We need to conserve money, and we need to do everything we can as efficiently as we can do it. And think everybody is doing it to that end," said Mills. "Our water and gas department has gone to four day, four ten hour work weeks because we do travel a lot. We do have gas lines that extend from here to Grubbs where our pick up station is."

Mills said the police department uses the most amount of gasoline compared to all other city departments. He said officers have changed the way the conduct business when feasible.

"You can't sit in an office and catch criminals. We have to stay on patrol and really the gas prices are expensive but it doesn't really change the way they do business," said Police Chief Gary Hefner.

"There's a lot of times that you're taking a lengthy report, you could shut your vehicle off or park in the shade if possible, or just whatever is necessary," said Hefner. "But if you're working an accident, you're overhead lights are on, radios, all that puts a drain on your battery, so you pretty much have to have your vehicle running at that time."

Hefner said his officers will continue using gasoline as they are, unless told to do otherwise by the city council. Hefner said officers drive 300 miles total every 24 hours patrolling the city limits.

"Part of our job everyday is driving. Our office is basically our car. We have everything we need to work inside our vehicles," said Hefner. "I think everybody feels the crunch of gas prices, but ours is just to where we have to patrol. That's our job. That's basically what we do is patrol the city."

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