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Crossroads businesses feel effects of high gas prices

By ALLISON MILES
May 3, 2011 at 12:03 a.m.

Gas prices  continue to fluctuate, rising to $3.89 for unleaded. Many area businesses and entities have had to change prices or how they budget their fuel costs.

Stanley Schweke spends much of his day overseeing business inside The Foliage Shoppe. He organizes displays, prepares arrangements and tweaks the business plan as necessary.

"We increased our delivery prices to $7 a couple of months ago," he said, explaining the company gases up the delivery van several times a week, at about $100 a pop. "We're trying to hold it down as much as we can, but we had to do something."

And Schweke isn't alone.

Many Crossroads businesses say they've felt the effects of increasing prices.

The Victoria School district anticipated high prices and set the budget accordingly, said Diane Boyett, the district's communications specialist. Thus far, the district has spent $391,000 of the $586,000 set aside for fuel.

The district learned that lesson a couple of years ago, when prices hit a similar, yet less-expensive, spike, Boyett said, and fund transfers were necessary to balance the budget.

"We're good about knowing we need to budget for worst-case scenarios," she said.

Regardless, she said, lower prices wouldn't hurt.

District vehicles, which include buses, maintenance trucks, lawn mowers and more, traveled 906,000 miles last year, she said, and will likely top a million miles this time around.

Fuel prices are higher than what the City of Victoria originally budgeted for, but the city will compensate through adjustments to departmental funds, said O.C. Garza, communications director.

"The kinds of things we do as a city will continue," he said, explaining the fuel budget goes toward police cars, fire engines and other vehicles. "You can't stop."

A conservative budget also helps, Garza said. Sometimes fuel prices are lower than budgeted and sometimes they're higher, so it typically balances in the end.

The city pays for fuel by volume, not by the gallon, and it comes in cheaper than the average price at the pump.

Alcoa's Point Comfort plant continues to use its in-plant vehicles as efficiently as it always has and hasn't felt a dramatic impact from gas price increases, said Laurel Cahill, the company's public information officer.

Much of the plant's work is done on foot or bicycle, she said, and use of vehicles outside the plant is not substantial.

Mario Garcia owns Super Mario's Yard Work, a one-man company that offers not only lawn services, but painting, sprinkler work and the like.

"Whatever people want, I do it," he said.

Garcia said he's felt the effects of price increases, but doesn't pass those off to customers. Instead, he works to make ends meet.

"If I usually would spend $250 on groceries, I'll cut it down to $120 and save some for gas," he said. "It affects me and my family. But I find a way."

Back at The Foliage Shoppe, Schweke said customers seem to understand the need for his $1 fee increase. Such prices affect everyone in some way, he said.

In the meantime, since the business sits right beside a gas station, he said he and his employees will keep an eye on fuel costs.

"We're always looking when they go out to change their signs," he said. "But it doesn't look like it's going to go down."

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