DALLAS — The city of Richardson is at least $80,000, or 16 percent, over budget for fuel this year for its 672-vehicle fleet that is driven more than 6 million miles a year, said the city's finance director, Rosie Vela in an article in the Dallas Morning News on July 10. The city has earmarked $652,000 — 30 percent more than this year's budget — to buy gas in the next fiscal year, which will begin Oct. 1. "We spend countless hours on this one particular budget item," said Ernest Ramos, the city's fleet manager. The fuel budget for the city is handled through his department. Budgeting is difficult because gas prices have been so unpredictable, he said. "We started to experience price fluctuations in 2003," Ramos said. "We started to analyze why prices started spiking." Richardson paid $1.24 per gallon of unleaded gasoline in October. In April, the city paid $1.48 a gallon. Diesel prices rose from $1.07 to $1.32 during that same period. The city does not pay federal excise tax. The city buys gas by the 10,000-gallon tanker on contract and pays market price for fuel on the day it is dispensed. A truckload of gas lasts the city a little over a month. The last truckload cost $12,941. "Every month, we looked at it to see if we would be within our $500,000 budget, and obviously we weren't," Vela said. Ramos has encouraged all the city's drivers to conserve gas by not idling. That, combined with keeping vehicles well maintained, should keep the city from having to consider budget cuts.