With the seemingly never-ending emergencies that they respond to, local first responder organizations know all too well how the price of gasoline can affect the bottom line.
Dallas County is fortunate it signed a long-term fuel contract last summer to service its fleet of 900 vehicles for 28 county agencies, including the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department. That contract locked in a fuel price that is now well below the average price per gallon.
The county signed a three-year contract with a vendor in which it agreed to purchase fuel, including approximately 600 thousand gallons of unleaded gasoline, for a little more than $2.4 million. That contract locked the price per gallon that Dallas County pays at about $1.92.
By comparison, AAA Texas reports on Thursday that the statewide average of unleaded gasoline is $4.69 a gallon.
In Tarrant County, MedStar Mobile Healthcare, which is the ambulance service for Fort Worth and 14 other member cities, has seen a huge increase in its monthly fuel expense.
MedStar has an agreement to purchase all its fuel from QuikTrip in exchange for a discount on gasoline.
But even with that discount, fuel costs are skyrocketing for the ambulance service.
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MedStar spent more than $96,000 on gasoline in May of last year. By comparison, this May it spent nearly $230,000, according to Matt Zavadsky, MedStar’s Chief Strategic Integration Officer.
“We don’t have the option of not using fuel," Zavadsky said. "We respond to 500 or 600 911 calls a day, and it’s not like we can just stop going to calls. We have to go."
MedStar has been able to cover the increased fuel cost using reserve funding, according to Zavadsky, but that will not be a long-term solution to the current problem.
“We are sort of benefiting from the fact that we have reserves,” Zavadsky said. “But there are organizations that do not have that, and have to make a decision about, ‘Hey, it is a low acuity 911 call, maybe we don’t go to this one [and] we tell the person to get themselves to the hospital.’ It’s not something that anybody wants to have to do, but if you cannot do it any other way that might have to be part of the mitigation strategy.”
Chief Jimmy Perdue is the chief of the North Richland Hills Police Department, and the current President of the Texas Police Chiefs Association.
Chief Perdue confirmed that police departments across the state, and beyond, will have a difficult budget process in the months and years to come specifically because of the rising price of gasoline.
“There is not a price where we stop responding to calls,” Chief Perdue said. “[But] w will all have to do a budget adjustment for next year. If you have an increase in 30 to 40% in fuel costs, that money has to come from somewhere.”
“We look at it all the time. Every time we are having a budget meeting, we are tracking it,” Chief Perdue said about his department’s fuel costs. “We hope that it is manageable this year. If it comes to it, we will have to look at cutting back expenses next year.”