Imagine signing an agreement that could save you 15 to 20 cents on a gallon of gas. It's a big reality for a city that buys gas and diesel in bulk and is trying to balance the budget and avoid raising taxes. It would be the city's biggest fuel contract in history.
Four hundred thousand dollars is quiet an extra expense for the Azalea City, but leaders will absorb the cost by making funding cuts in other areas.
Any time Commander John Fason with the Valdosta Police needs to complete an investigation or search for a suspect, he has to fill up at Valdosta's Fuel Yard.
City leaders say despite rising fuel cost, services like police, fire and trash collection can't stop, so other changes had to be made.
Mark Barber, Valdosta Finance Director, says, "This was one of the problems we had in trying to balance our budget. We had to come up with 400,000 more dollars from last fiscal year just to balance this budget, and operationally, it effects every department here at the city, so as you can imagine, it’s been a difficult task."
While an extra $400,000 seems like a lot, officials say their gas and diesel contract will actually save money compared to what the rest of us pay at the pump.
Officials also say it helps guarantee the fuel will be available when it’s needed.
Greg Brown, purchasing agent, says, "By having this contract in place, we'll always be able to get fuel. When we've had hurricanes come through, we have yet to run out of fuel, knock on wood. It’s important because we've got to have fuel out there."
That way police and cleanup crews can continue to do their jobs. Despite the increase in fuel prices, city leaders say no tax hikes will be needed.
Barber adds, "We worked very hard not to have a tax increase."
The fuel contract usually saves the city 15 to 20 cents per gallon compared to what citizens pay at the pump. Unfortunately, high fuel prices could be a problem for many years, and Valdosta city leaders will continue to monitor the numbers and plan for continued price hikes in future budgets.