The price of fuel is causing a lot of drivers to dig deeper into their pocketbooks, but it's also increasing operational costs for public safety agencies, including the Riverside County Fire Department, a spokesman said today.
"Fuel has hit us pretty hard,'' county fire Deputy Chief Glenn Patterson told City News Service. "Petrol prices drive everything -- vehicle maintenance, delivery for parts, tires.
"The cost of our tires went up significantly this year."
The fire department Tuesday submitted a cost allocation plan to the county Board of Supervisors indicating that in the 2012-13 fiscal year, the county and 20 cities' total shared administrative and support costs are expected to come to $36.5 million.
That's a 12 percent jump from the $32.5 million in 2011-12.
The board approved the plan without comment. The county contracts with the California Department of Forestry -- Cal Fire -- for fire protection services, and most incorporated communities within the county, in turn, contract with the county.
Outlays to maintain support staff who oversee payroll and purchase equipment are expected to go up, as well as outlays for dispatch services, communications gear, fleet repairs, the hazardous materials unit and the reserve firefighter program.
"The plan is developed under a worst-case scenario," Patterson said.
"We expect to be able to hold costs down. We only bill according to actual expenses. We hope to see costs level out."
Current short-term factors weighing on gas prices include refinery outages and the switch-over from summer to winter blend fuel.
Because it has its own highly regulated blend of gasoline, California doesn't pipe in product from other states, further constraining supplies.
Longer-term factors weighing on petrol prices could be harder to predict.
Patterson told CNS that by February, county fire officials should have a handle on whether operational expenses will actually hit the $36.5 million predicted for the current fiscal year.
Cities are billed directly for fire protection services and for some additional expenses, including electricity to power fire stations and keep them in working order.
However, the leftover costs are spread among municipalities and the county.
About 1,050 Cal Fire personnel work for the county, while the county directly employs 200 fire department staffers, including accountants, mechanics, payroll administrators, public information officers and others.