Archive for Thursday, April 19, 2001

School district braces for increased utilities costs

April 19, 2001

Jack Deyoe warned the De Soto School Board Monday that the increase the district saw in its natural gas bill this winter could pale in comparison to the hike it will see in its electrical bill next year.

The district research, development and transportation director's warning has merit because he predicted the natural gas increases this year.

Deyoe said Western Resources is asking the Kansas Corporation Commission for a 19-percent rate increase for its Northeastern Kansas electrical customers.

Western Resources has two divisions, Kansas Power and Light, which supplies Northeast Kansas, and Kansas Gas and Electric, which supplies the south-central part of the state.

KGE customers' rates are about 25-percent higher than those of KPL customers because they are paying for the Wolf Creek Nuclear Power Plant, Deyoe said. The $151 million rate increase Western Resources is requesting would help equalize those rates.

There are supporters and opponents of the request among KCC board members and the Legislature, and it is not known what the eventual decision will be, Deyoe said. But he added the increase requested would raise the district's electrical bill by $100,000.

Any rate increase approved will not become effective until Jan. 1, 2002.

In making a budget recommendation for the 2001-2002 school year, Deyoe assumed a 12 to 13-percent rate increase. His recommendation would raise the district's electrical budget from $483,500 to $546,500.

Last year at this time, Deyoe predicted natural gas would increase from its $3 per cubic meter to $5. Record cold temperatures and the loss of natural gas storage facilities in Hutchinson and Wyoming caused gas prices to reach as high as $11 per cubic meter before it moderated to the levels Deyoe expected.

The district's natural gas bill is $132,000 higher than last year at this time, but that includes newly-opened Mize Elementary and Mill Valley High School.

Despite that figure, Deyoe said the district managed well because of its energy conservation program, the ability in newer buildings to lower temperatures in unused rooms and the board's decision to lower thermostats early last winter.

The district was able to lock in gas prices at the current rate of about $5 per cubic meter through July 2002, Deyoe said. Market analysts predict prices may approach last winter's highs if we experience harsh temperatures this summer and next winter, he said.

He recommended the district increase its natural gas budget to $194,000 for the 2001-2002 year, an $18,000 increase from this year's projected total.

In other business, the board approved a $395,000 bid from Datalink to install fiber optic cable at its east and west campus.

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