While $4-a-gallon gasoline and even more expensive diesel fuel have taken a bite out of the city of Marysville and Marysville Exempted Village School District budgets, officials say they are concerned, but aren't pushing the panic button - yet.

While $4-a-gallon gasoline and even more expensive diesel fuel have taken a bite out of the city of Marysville and Marysville Exempted Village School District budgets, officials say they are concerned, but aren't pushing the panic button - yet.

Jillian Froment, Marysville's director of administration, said fuel cost increases have hit the city and that department heads have been directed to look for ways to conserve.

"We have asked all departments and divisions to review fuel use and look for efficiencies," Froment said.

To date some of the strategies include:

Planning ahead for travel to multiple worksites to minimize the need for special trips

Use of trucks/vehicles with better fuel efficiency

Consideration of hybrids or alternative fuel vehicles for future purchases.

The city purchases gasoline and diesel fuel on a contract with Smart Oil. In late May, the city was paying $3.71 per gallon for gasoline (up from $2.95 per gallon on June 15, 2007). The city pays $4.51 per gallon for low-sulfur diesel fuel for its on-road vehicles (up from $2.79 per gallon on June 15, 2007) and $4.29 per gallon for high-sulfur diesel fuel for its off-road equipment (up from $2.35 per gallon on June 15, 2007).

While those costs increases are considerable, Froment said it's important to remember that the city's annual fuel costs represent less than one-half of one percent of the city's annual operating budget. The city's 2007 fuel costs were $215,340. In the first five months of 2008, the city has already spent $120,367.

Marysville's entire fleet of vehicles consists of 94 road vehicles, 59 of which run on gasoline and 35 that use diesel fuel. The city also operates 47 pieces of off-road equipment. Eleven of those are gasoline-operated and the other 36 use diesel fuel. The city currently has no hybrid or alternative fuel vehicles in its fleet.

Froment said the overall impact of rising fuel costs is still being assessed by the city.

"The finance department is presently working with divisions and departments to forecast expected fuel use through the remainder of the budget year to determine the extent to which each budget will be impacted," Froment said. "Initial assessments indicate it is likely that a request will have to be made for an additional appropriation of funds from city council. However, prior to making this request, division and department heads will be exploring efficiencies and other budget line items for potential savings."

Froment said she is also concerned about indirect cost increases related to high oil prices.

"It should be noted that rising fuel costs are impacting asphalt and construction prices," she said. "For example, three years ago the city obtained asphalt at a cost of $28.50 per ton. Today, asphalt costs for the city are $54 per ton. Street paving and capital improvement projects potentially will be impacted."

Rising fuel costs have cut into savings the school district hoped to realize through two recent cuts in bus services.

Faced with a budget shortfall in the neighborhood of $3-million for the 2008-09 school year, the board in February increased the radius for not busing students from one mile to two miles around each of the district buildings, then voted in May to eliminate high school busing in the fall.

The February action reduced 400 miles from the district's daily travel and was to save approximately $200,000 in fuel and personnel costs. The board and administration hoped to save $900,000 next year by not busing high school students, reducing its daily travel by half - about 1,500 miles a day.

Figures provided to ThisWeek by the district show total fuel costs nearly doubling between December 2007 and May 2008. (See chart)

"We had a small leveling in February," Superintendent Larry Zimmerman said, "but the savings we had hoped for were eaten up in cost increases."

"But, the costs would have been (more) if we had done nothing," he added.

Fuel costs will affect expected savings from the decision to discontinue busing for high school students, he said.

"There will definitely be a savings for us, but the real amount of course will be directly related to fuel prices," Zimmerman said. "I know we didn't expect nor budget for anything like this."

ThisWeek Staff Writer Jim Fischer contributed to this story