Lincoln, LPS spending hundreds of thousands more on gas in 2022

People are feeling the pinch at the gas stations. Prices have dropped a little, but are still much higher than they were even a few months ago.
Published: Jul. 11, 2022 at 5:51 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - City vehicles drive millions of miles each year and the Lincoln Public School district has dozens of bus routes traversing the city year round, and the costs to keep those vehicles on the roads are pushing budgets to the brink.

More than 500 vehicles owned by the city are on Lincoln streets, consuming hundreds of thousands of gallons of gas. This year has been nearly twice as expensive, with the city spending nearly $90,000 on gas in June alone. That’s almost double what they spent in June last year. This is leaving them working hard to try and not exceed their annual budget of about $1 million.

“You set a budget and you’re expected to live within it,” said Pat Wenzl, Fleet Manager. “It’s the same hurdle citizens or organizations deal with. Moving forward we’re going to have to talk to finance and see what our options are.”

They have taken steps to save money like locking in bulk prices, allowing them to spend about 40% less. For example, they’re paying $2.82 a gallon for unleaded gasoline, compared to the Lincoln average with is currently $4.62 according to AAA.

They started this in 2020 when prices plummeted.

“That’s what’s helping us now,” Wenzl said. “We’re using our savings from the last two years to continue to operate.”

As of now, 20% of the fleet are hybrids and they have six fully electric vehicles.

“Any time a vehicle is up for replacement, we look to see if there’s a fuel efficient option,” Wenzl said. “It’s paying dividends now.”

LPS is also feeling the effects.

“In August of last year we were paying $2.16 for diesel,” said Ryan Robley, LPS. “Last week we got a load paying $4.52.”

They spent $1.2 million on gas for the 2021-2022 school year, that’s $300,000 over budget and a 50% increase over the year before. They’re also buying in bulk, but that’s about the only measure they can take to cut costs.

“Our business is to provide transportation to students so as long as they need it,” Robley said. “We have to run.”

To combat this, LPS has increased their proposed budget for the 2022-2023 to $1.2 million for fuel costs. They’re hoping costs will cool down soon, as they have 55 routes starting this week for summer school.

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