Harsh winter weather that has wreaked havoc on the roads in Tipton County has also done a number on the county’s highway department funding.
The Tipton County Council approved an additional appropriation of $20,000 to replenish the highway department’s overtime fund after it spent more than $36,000 on overtime through the first three months of the year.
The highway department budgeted $30,000 for overtime expenses for the entire year, director Bret Morris said. Through March, the highway department has spent $76,000 on fuel alone, in addition to $40,000 on repairs and maintenance.
The highway department has a budget of $250,000 for highway and motor expenses, such as fuel and maintenance costs, Morris said.
Morris asked for an additional $100,000 to help the department offset the inordinate amount of overtime highway crews have accrued due to the harsh winter. The council tabled the request to get a better idea of what the highway department’s expenses will be toward the end of the budget year.
“Our biggest expenses, more than anything, have been the fuel costs,” Morris said. “The only thing I was trying to do was get us back to what I think is on track.”
Much of the maintenance performed on the vehicles, Morris said, occurred during a four-day stretch of winter storms in early January. The department purchased fuel conditioner, air cleaners and repaired a broken computer on a plow truck.
Council members understood Morris’ predicament, but wanted to see how things develop with the budget before allocating more money to the highway department.
“I expected that we would see something come back to the council, because it is certainly an unexpected expense,” Council member James Ashley said. “My main concern is why we’re doing it so soon with a lot of the budget cycle still ahead of us.”
Morris said he was OK with holding off on additional funding, but cautioned the department could be in dire need of money after calculating projected expenses for the rest of the year.
“Comparing [the budget] to the last three years, if we do the same things, we’ll be in trouble by September or October,” he said.
Martin Slagter can be reached at 765-454-8570, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @slagterm.