Concern and fear are driving the market and pushing oil prices to nearly $110 a barrel, according to Jessica Brady, AAA spokeswoman.
She said this is happening at a time when reports show a slow, but steady global economic recovery. However, the increased cost of gas could have a negative impact on the economic turnaround as it eats in to more consumers’ disposable income.
In Polk County, the price of fuel is a daily topic of people who must drive to work or school.
Jason Hulsey is one of the many Polk County motorists that are paying more for the gas he uses.
“I just went back to work last week,” said John Wellington.
“I have had to struggle to make ends meet and now I have this unexpected expense to deal with.”
He is not the only person that does not know what the future will bring as families struggle to pay bills.
“We have had to move in with my family,” said Susan Greene. “Our budget is so lean that I am about ready to give up.”
Unfortunately, these and other local residents believe the rising cost of fuel will be passed to consumers. It is a viewpoint shared by retailers receiving merchandise hauled by truckers who are emptying their wallets while filling the tank.
City and county governments are also keeping a close watch on the bottom line.
“We can just grin and bear it,” said Rockmart Manager Jeff Ellis. “It isn’t easy but we must provide services, which cost money.”
Traditionally, he said, increased cost of fuel is factored into the annual budget. However, it becomes more difficult with today’s fluctuating market.
“We have asked each department head to be aware of the need to conserve,” he said. “The last thing we want to do is pass the cost to local residents.”
This could include planning trash pickup and more stationary patrols by police officers rather than riding the streets.
“My personal opinion,” Ellis said, “is that some oil companies are gouging prices.”
However, he said, it could be a long time before there is a drop in the cost of fuel. “It has become a political issue and we are in an election year.”
Matt Denton, assistant manager, Polk County, echoes this sentiment.
In 2011, Polk’s total fuel budget was $406,450 with actual expenses at $468,631.
To date (2012), expenses are listed at $363,676, which is nearing the annual budgeted total of $436,150.
Denton said these numbers are for all departments and noted there are still 4 months left in this Fiscal year.
“We will probably exceed the budgeted total for fuel,” he said. “We must provide public safety and other services. There is not a lot we can do except hope that funds can be found if we have to make a budget amendment.”
Meanwhile, officials in Polk School District are also viewing the rising oil prices.
Last September, the cost of fuel was $3.10 per gallon. Last week, it was $3.56.
“We purchase about 15,000 gallons every 22 days,” said Superintendent Marvin Williams. “The total could reach $50,000 to $60,000. We budgeted $480,000 for the year and could reach that mark soon.”
Williams emphasized that there is little choice but pay the going fuel rate since school buses must roll.
“If we go over the budgeted amount,” he said, “We will have to ask school board members for more funds.”