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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Counties not counting on lower fuel costs

From an article by Dan Springer in the La Crosse Tribune:

Officials in area counties said while tumbling oil prices could provide some budget relief, they don’t trust the trend will last.

After talking about painfully steep costs for fuel, energy and asphalt for so long, county officials struggled to gauge what the recent falling prices might mean as they finalized annual budgets last week.

In the period between when most area counties established a preliminary budget and the 2009 plan was approved, the price of gasoline dropped as much as 46 percent, and the cost of energy was not far behind.

As La Crosse County leaders looked to whittle away at their 2009 budget, County Administrator Steve O’Malley suggested the board could lower its figures for fuel in the coming year.

As O’Malley expected, the idea wasn’t seriously considered.

“Do any of you have an idea where prices are going to go?” O’Malley asked at one meeting. “Maybe your crystal ball is clearer than mine, but I doubt the prices won’t go back up.”

Area county leaders agreed that banking on lower fuel-related costs would be a foolish move.

“We left it the same,” said Jeff Amo, first vice-chairman for the Jackson County Board. “We just don’t trust it’s going to stay there all next year.”

High fuel prices were to blame for Jackson County’s decision earlier this year to lay off workers in the highway department. Several of those workers since have been brought back, so the board would like nothing more than to see prices remain low to keep them on the job, Amo said.

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