With soaring gas prices staying put at over $4 per gallon for the time being, the pocket books of Lake Forest and Lake Bluff residents, like the rest of the country, are likely a bit lighter these days.
Gas prices for Chicago and the Chicago suburbs reached the highest prices ever last week at an average of $4.41 per gallon for regular unleaded gas, according to a AAA press release.
The state of Illinois has also reached its highest prices ever with the average cost for a gallon of regular unleaded gas at $4.28, according to AAA.
The previous record for gas prices was set in July 2008.
The hit has come sooner for some operations than others, but every business owner and city employee is aware that unless the price of fuel comes down soon, it could have a negative financial effect on all of them.
According to Michael Thomas, director of Public Works for the City of Lake Forest, the municipality’s budget has not been adversely affected, but they monitor the situation closely.
“We take a look at it every month,” he explained, adding that the city will adjust their budget in November, and determine if they will have enough funding to get them through the rest of their fiscal year.
Typically,Lake Forest budgets $450,000 per year for the fuel costs of all of its city departments, including public works, the fire and police departments, and parks and forestry.
The city has an advantage over the average resident since they don’t pay tax for gasoline. In addition, they purchase it in bulk, receiving deliveries of 8,500 gallons per month.
Thomas said this results in a savings of 50 cents per gallon. However, city employees are always reminded to conserve their fuel as much as possible.
“They need to turn their vehicle off when they aren’t moving, and be smart about not making multiple trips to and from one location,” he noted, stressing the city has not pulled back on any of the services the city provides residents as a result of gas prices.
Some area businesses have begun to feel the pinch though, and have had to adjust some of their prices accordingly.
Sunset Foods has seen the cost of their vegetables, meats, and other perishable goods skyrocket due to high fuel costs, which result in higher delivery costs.
“Perishables are going through the roof,” said Bill Tarpey, Sunset Foods store manager, who added approximately 60 percent of Sunset's vendors have begun charging a fuel surcharge with each delivery.
Since gas prices began to rise, Tarpey said there has been a slowdown of customer traffic, which he concludes is because residents are travelling further away to chain stores that may have lower prices.
He is hopeful that some may eventually return when they realize how much extra they are spending on gas, when they make a longer drive to a grocery store that may have lower prices.
The area’s floral industry has taken a hit by gas prices as well.
Lake Forest Flowers has been hit in two ways. According to owner Eileen Looby, the price of flowers, like the price of produce in the grocery stores, has increased significantly simply because it has become so costly for vendors to deliver them.
“We won’t be in business if we don’t change our prices as well,” she explained, adding that by law they are not able change their pricing to match what the actual costs are to the business.
In addition, Lake Forest Flowers deliveries range from the city of Chicago all the way to the Wisconsin border.
“We’ve tried to keep delivery prices as low as possible,” Looby said. “But we have to be more logistical about our deliveries.”
Looby said her business has seen a decline in recent months, and that people are not coming in for a weekly flower order simply for their home. However, flowers are still a staple gift for many occasions, including this past weekend's Mother’s Day.
“The whole giving of flowers doesn’t change,” she said, adding Lake Forest Flowers will still be keeping busy, with the prom and wedding season just around the corner.
In the pizza business, where deliveries are also common, restaurant owners are trying not to pass their fuel costs onto their customers.
“We’re trying to hold our prices as much as possible,” said Dave Puzes, owner of Lake Bluff’s Luke’s Pizza.
Puzes makes two to four trips per week to personally pick up many of the products he serves in his restaurant, and has directly felt the hit of soaring fuel prices.
However, his automobile is not the only area where the high prices are hitting him.
The price of oil for the fryer at Luke’s restaurant, where much of the food is prepared, has increased by $10 in just six months, Puzes said.
For now, he is absorbing the higher cost for oil because he wants as many people to keep coming to his restaurant as possible in the down economy.
“People don’t have a lot of money to spend as it is,” he said.
That sentiment is common among most who serve the Lake Forest and Lake Bluff community. They are just hoping to weather the storm of high gas costs until they come down to affordable levels.
“We’ve attempted to keep deliveries as low as possible and still keep serving,” said Looby.