Sanpete County residents are feeling the sting of inflation in everything they are doing.
The Consumer Price Index increased 8.6% from May 2021 to May 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. An average family of four is spending about $700 more per month on the same things they purchased a year ago.
While price increases affect each family differently, most consumers are feeling the pinch and changing the way they spend to accommodate surging costs. Those costs are most noticeable at the gas pump and grocery store.
“Every business, every household, every community is concerned about fuel costs,” said Kent Barton, Manti City manager.
On an average, a household will spend $5,000 more at the gas pump this year, which is a 78% increase over the previous year. Families in rural areas often drive longer distances to buy groceries, get to work, or drop the kids off at their extracurricular activities.
That means rural communities are hit even harder than metro areas by high gas costs, which seem to break new records every day.
Kim Robinson, president of Robinson Transport in Salina, said his company is doing the same amount of work and racking up the same mileage, but paying a lot more at the pump.
The rising price of diesel in turn affects the price residents pay for goods, groceries, and services, he says. If you touch it, a trucking company has touched it, and therefore the price goes up.
Besides households, local governments are feeling the pinch. At a recent meeting, Sanpete County commissioners announced that with the year not quite half over, the Road Department had spent its fuel budget for the whole year.
Sheriff Jared Buchanan said gasoline costs for the Sheriff ’s Office are up $5,000 per month.
Barton, the Manti city manager, said Manti is seeing surcharges for many items delivered to it due to the increase on fuel.
Jenna Draper, regional economic development coordinator for the Six-County Association of Governments, said in general every business, large and small, is trying to juggle the increase cost of everything from the products they use, to the shipping and receiving of those products.
“It’s getting harder and harder for businesses to keep their costs low,” Draper said. “They really are trying to help and be conscious of the consumers.”
Real estate is also taking a big hit.
Casey Dyreng, manager at State Bank of Southern Utah in Gunnison, said the Federal Reserve tries to curb inflation by increasing interest rates.
Mortgage rates have been artificially low for 12-plus years, bottoming out at about 2.75% for a 30-year mortgage in November 2020. They have now risen to 5.875%, he said.
For the home buyer of an average-priced home in our area, this increase basically means they can afford $100,000 less of a home then they could have just a few months ago, Dyreng said.
That affects buyers and sellers alike, and takes some buyers out of the market altogether, he said. “Of particular concern is those who may have started construction of a home when rates were 2% lower and will now have to deal with a higher payment than they anticipated,” Dyreng said.
“We have already seen a couple of instances in our area where the borrower qualified for the mortgage at the beginning of construction but then didn’t qualify when the home was completed, simply because the increase in mortgage rates during the construction period.”
Abby Ivory of Fountain Green, owner of Town and Country Home Mortgage in Nephi, said everything has absolutely stopped for her.
“People just can’t afford a home anymore,” she said. “I tried to qualify a three-year highschool teacher for a little townhouse, and he doesn’t qualify without a co-signer.”
She said the home costs are staying the same, but since interest rates are almost 3% percent higher, the payment is $520 more per month on a $300,000 loan.
In 18 years, she said, this is her first month ever that she didn’t close on a loan. “To me, this is worse than the mortgage meltdown in 2008 to 2010,” she said.
Sherri Burns of Centerfield said being retired and on a fixed income is hard. Going on vacation with her husband and towing their toy hauler is out of the question, she said. They will be staying home more and going out less.
Asked what she’s noticing because of inflation, LeAnn Greenwell of Milburn said she has a friend who is using higher education to change careers after commuting for 12 years, while another friend is putting off retirement due to increased living expenses.
“In our home we are helping local providers by buying extra meat and stocking up the freezer,” she said. “Our hay will be priced higher than normal because of increased production costs, and we are making sure we keep enough in savings to redrill our existing well due to the rapid rise in new well permits and rural construction.”
Greenwell, executive director of the Sanpete County Children’s Justice Center, said she is also seeing a significant decline in grant funding combined with increased operating expenses, which means less dollars to assist those who need it most.
“May kindness and compassion prevail in Sanpete,” she said. “We rarely know what our neighbors’ challenges are.”
Anthony Richmond owner of Richmond Floors in Mt. Pleasant, said the rising costs of products, freight, fuel, etc at first triggered a trauma response in him. He was facing scarcity and wondered how a small business like his would navigate through the rough waters.
“Inflation is a real issue that we have to face, but the way we face it and how we choose to move forward is where I have found true power within myself,” Richmond said. “The global events over the past three to four years have caused me to be more creative in business and in my personal life.”
He said finding something difficult to do and honoring himself and doing it every day is how he is getting by.
“Inflation, COVID and adversity have had a huge effect in my life, in my business, in my relationships, etc. The variables have caused me to find so much to be grateful for, starting with myself,” he said.
“We cannot control what is thrown at us, but we can take control of how we react to it. It starts with us. We can complain and find the negatives, or we can work to conquer and expand our ways of getting through it.”