Highway spending is out of balance in several Vermont cities and towns as the cost of gasoline climbs toward a national average of $4 a gallon. Adding insult to injury, there are still two months left in the fiscal year.
The cost of gasoline and diesel is causing local governments to go well over budget on road projects. In some cases, towns are delaying repairs until next year.
"Most of the towns that we’ve heard from, actually almost all of them, are looking at cost overruns," said Karen Horn, policy director with the Vermont League of Cities and Towns in an interview.
Horn said diesel and gas budget shortfalls come on the heels of significant overruns caused by Tropical Storm Irene damage. "There are a few towns that have told me that they’re looking at potentially pushing off projects. Warren was one town in particular that was going to have to look at what kind of infrastructure projects they had in the pipeline."
Warren is paying about $3.80 per gallon for fuel compared to $2.60 two years ago.
In Colchester, the Department of Public Works says the town is already 12 percent over budget. Moretown was forced to increase its 2012 budget after overspending last year by nearly $25,000. The $62,000 the town has spent to fuel its trucks and heavy machinery this year represents more than half of the funds budgeted for all equipment repairs and maintenance.
The League of Cities and Towns says the mild winter and dry spring have helped keep some costs down, so towns may actually be in better shape than they might have been otherwise.