Gas prices a boon for some town budgets
The recent plunge in gas prices has some towns fueling up while costs are down.
New Milford-area residents have already been reaping the benefits at the pumps, but towns, which need to fuel their vehicles and heat their buildings, are also enjoying the lower costs.
New Milford Mayor Pat Murphy said savings resulting from the town’s new fuel contract could be in excess of $100,000 this year.
“It’s really great and it affords us a savings on what was budgeted for the coming year,” Murphy said. “For years, it went up so much that you had to budget for increases and try to project where you thought it would go.”
Roxbury First Selectman Barbara Henry was on the phone last week with their gasoline supplier, looking for a better rate since diesel is selling for $2.17 to $2.27, less than the town is now paying.
“I’m calling them today and saying, ‘We’ve got to get this down,’” Henry said.
Bridgewater Selectman Alan Brown said his town has flexibility since it’s not under a contract and is not a member of a consortium.
“We negotiate firmly and regularly with our suppliers so we’re able to take advantage of price changes rapidly,” Brown said.
With costs generally on the rise for municipalities, unanticipated savings are a rare occurrence and provide sudden flexibility. However, three area towns find themselves unable to take advantage of the reduced-market prices.
For Washington, the drop in gas prices came too late.
“We already locked in to a new fuel price for September through August 2016,” First Selectman Mark Lyon said. “We use a buying program with the schools. We’ve been using it for about 10 years and I can only think of one other time when the market price dropped below what we were paying. We’re still not far off the market price.”
Sherman First Selectman Clay Cope contacted the town’s supplier, Mitchell Fuel, when he saw the market price drop, but said he soon realized the price the town had already negotiated with the company in April was a “good deal.”
Kent First Selectman Bruce Adams said his town is putting out a request for proposals to find a lower fuel price for the 2015-16 fiscal year. Kent buys fuel through the East River consortium and had already locked in a rate for the current fiscal year. But Adams said the town was “going on our own” for 2015-16.