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County fuel costs lower than expected in 2012

Staff Photo: John Bohn Gwinnett County school bus driver Michael Muller fills the fuel tank of his bus at Gwinnett County Fire Station 20 in Lawrenceville Wednesday. The bus carries 100 gallons of fuel.

Staff Photo: John Bohn Gwinnett County school bus driver Michael Muller fills the fuel tank of his bus at Gwinnett County Fire Station 20 in Lawrenceville Wednesday. The bus carries 100 gallons of fuel.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Gwinnett County school bus driver Michael Muller drives to fill the fuel tank of his bus at Gwinnett County Fire Station 20 in Lawrenceville Wednesday. The bus carries 100 gallons of fuel.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Each school day, those big yellow school buses that traverse Gwinnett gobble up 18,000 gallons of fuel.

But a contract approved this week by commissioners ensures that even in these days of hard-to-predict gas prices, the buses will take as few taxpayer dollars as possible.

"Because we purchase annually directly from a distributor as a large joint venture with the county, we enjoy a bulk volume buying power that provides deep discounts relative to prices in the retail market," said Gwinnett County Public Schools spokesman Sloan Roach.

Since Gwinnett entered a consortium of agencies several years ago to purchase fuel in mass quantities, the annual contract has been as cheap as possible -- a 0.0029 cents mark-up per gallon on unleaded gas and 0.0054 cents per gallon on diesel from Oil Price Information Service wholesale prices from the primary supplier.

The renewal of the year's contract, which begins the end of August, is for a base of $20 million among the 17 agencies. Gwinnett's government and school system are expected to use about $9.8 million of that total.

The timing of the contract renewal comes on the first week of classes for GCPS for the 2012-2013 school year.

"Obviously, we'd like fuel prices to be as low as it can be," Gwinnett government Chief Financial Officer Aaron Bovos said. "This year ... we feel good financially."

Last year, the quick rise of prices at the pump surprised county leaders, who had to rebudget after predicting fuel prices would hit $2.75 instead of the $3.16 per gallon average that occurred.

This year, Bovos said, the numbers have come in around $3.34 a gallon, well below the $4.12 officials budgeted for use for police cars, fire engines and other county uses.