Most of the time, the Harvey County commissioners try and make meetings light-hearted —unless there are members of the public there with a serious issue.

But on Tuesday, there was no making light of preliminary departmental budgets. Between health-care costs and rising gasoline prices, the commission is bracing for requested increases.

“It’s not going to be a fun budget year,” commissioner Marge Roberson said.

On Tuesday, three departmental budgets came in — noxious weeds, administration and the commissioners’ budget.

Two of the three had significant increases tied to either the cost of gas or the cost of health insurance.

“I was bracing myself for the increase in fuel, but health-care costs are getting really scary,” Roberson said.

John Waltner, both the mayor of Hesston and the Harvey County director of special projects, told the commission to expect hefty increases in health insurance — somewhere between 12 percent and 25 percent.

Waltner told the commission the city of Hesston is expecting a 22 percent increase in the price of health insurance.

“The frustrating thing about this is there is nothing we can do about it,” commissioner Ron Krehbiel said.

The county administration budget contains a major increase —from more than $60,000 spent in 2007 to a budgeted $69,000 for 2008 and $72,402 in 2009.

The probable increase to health insurance premiums comes at a time when consumers are paying record-high gas prices — which also will affect county budgets.

The noxious weeds eradication department budget contains more than $2,000 in increases for fuel costs.

“With fuel, it is strictly a guessing game,” noxious weeds director Bob Cheney said. “About all we can do is put a number down and, if worse comes to worse, park our trucks.”

The department is projected to spend about $8,650 on gas this year — if the price does not go higher than $4 per gallon — which is more than the budgeted $7,500.

For 2009, the department budgeted $9,883, nearly a $2,300 increase over the final expenditure for fuel in 2007.

“This is a reality check,” Roberson said. “Everybody’s budget is affected by this.”

Most years, if Cheney’s department runs short of money in the fuel budget, it can be moved from other parts of the budget.

Other than wages and chemicals for weed control, fuel is the largest expense of the department.

“That’s really the only increase I have,” Cheney said.