Imagine having to fill up 55 cars every day.

That’s the situation faced by Escambia County Sheriff Heath Jackson, whose fleet of patrol and transport vehicles cannot exactly cut down on driving to keep residents safe. With each vehicle using up to a tank and a half per day, you don’t need to do the math to know that high prices are blowing up his budget.

Jackson has taken a few steps to cut down on gasoline usage, but there’s not a whole lot he can do. Deputies must continue their regular patrols, and prisoner transport vehicles still have to move inmates around the state.

“If we don’t have to do something, we don’t," Jackson said. "And if you have to get out of a car, you’d better not leave it running. We may have to cut some overtime and purchases.”

But that’s not going to make enough of a dent.

Escambia County Administrator Tony Sanks is dealing with gasoline expenditures that are putting a strain on the balance sheet.

“We budgeted for a reasonable increase, but this is beyond reasonable," Sanks said. "Some projects may have to be delayed.”

Sanks added that the county gas tax is fixed, not a percentage, so revenue will not increase along with the price at the pump. There’s really no new revenue to be derived from gas stations, and with people driving less due to high prices, revenue may actually decrease.

Escambia County uses three-thousand to four-thousand gallons per month, and the most recent purchase was priced at $3.70 per gallon for unleaded and $4.87 for diesel. The county buys gas in bulk, making “bids” for tanks of 1,000 gallons. While there’s a discount purchasing in this manner, it’s not making up for prices that have more than doubled.

The only “good thing” is that the county is halfway through the fiscal year, which ends on September 30th, so the county is not currently too far over budget. But if high prices continue, steps may have to be taken to deal with the red ink.

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