Press-Republican

Local News

August 1, 2013

Fuel-card use sparks questions

MALONE — Two auditors have questioned Franklin County’s use of credit cards to fill vehicles at pump prices when its Highway Department has cheaper fuel available.

And legislators intend to discuss the issue more when they meet today to review a cost-benefit analysis that they asked County Manager Thomas Leitz to prepare.

Leitz says not traveling to the Highway Garage on Route 30 to gas up saves money, as it involves less driver time and reduced wear and tear on the fleet of public-transportation buses and county vehicles

MORE COSTLY

But County Auditor Fran Perry told legislators that fuel bills are $1,000 higher a month now than they were before the gas cards were issued in mid March to Public Transportation, the Building and Grounds Department, the District Attorney’s Office, Emergency Services and the Sheriff’s Department.

Roger Lis, the county’s independent auditor, said in his annual audit review that the county was inappropriately charged sales tax on its pump purchases, “so we have to ask for the money back. It creates another process, so we have to look at it.”

He also said the program is “costing us more money than before” and that a new policy and clear procedure needs to be created for users to follow.

BUYING COSTLIER GAS

The Highway Department buys its fuel in bulk at state-contract prices.

According to documents the Press-Republican received from the county auditor and County Highway Department through Freedom of Information Act requests, gas-card users paid an average of $3.12 per gallon for unleaded fuel (including tax) compared to $2.99 a gallon at the Highway Garage fuel station in April.

Diesel was $3.54 a gallon at the pump and $3.14 a gallon at the Highway Garage that month.

In May, the average price, including tax, at the pump for unleaded gas was $3.12 a gallon, compared to $2.96 at the Highway Garage. The cost was $3.54 a gallon for diesel outside compared to $3.14 a gallon at the garage.

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