Archive for Thursday, August 25, 2011

USD 348 utility bill for July doubles from 2010

August 25, 2011

Superintendent Paul Dorathy and the USD 348 Board of Education received a surprise when their July utility bill came from the city of Baldwin City.

It was a surprise that cost the district more than $80,000, which is twice as much as the bill was from July 2010. As expected, Dorathy wasn’t pleased and expressed his frustration.

“It’s very disappointing and upsetting spending that kind of money on utilities for a month,” Dorathy said. “We’re working now to get a handle on why that occurred and what we’re going to do so it doesn’t happen again. Some of it, we knew what was happening and some of it is just wasteful.”

Nearly $50,000 of the district’s bill was because of electricity. Most of that can be charged to air conditioning use during one of the hottest Julys on record when the temperature was more than 100 degrees for 15 consecutive days.

Dorathy said the weather wasn’t the only problem. He said some building’s air conditioning units were left running longer that they should have been. The city’s rates also increased, and the city recently began charging the school district for peak demand, which basically means if its peak at any one time is too high, it will be charged extra.

“The peak demand was only part of the issue,” Dorathy said. “There was a lot of air conditioning running. There were a lot of factors to do with that. We will be trying to address the peak demand issue by starting units on a staggered start to avoid a high peak.”

Baldwin High School’s electrical bill was the highest of any in the district at $17,289.65. Dorathy said the BHS system is run by one unit, so if anyone was in the building and using the air conditioning, then most of the building was being cooled, too.

He also said a major part of the control broke in July. The part was ordered but didn’t arrive for two weeks. Instead of turning off the system during the streak of hot days, the district left it running and it ran colder than normal.

“The choice was keep it on or turn it off,” Dorathy said. “During the time when the temperature was over 100 degrees, I couldn’t ask employees to sit in there with no air conditioning. It ran up a pretty good bill. This was also happening the same time as enrollment. The high school is a closed building, so there aren’t too many windows you can open in that building.”

The Baldwin Junior High School electricity bill was $13,370,62 for the month. The two Baldwin City elementary schools combined to cost $13,060.52. Staff members were also using those buildings, especially the elementary schools as teachers moved from the outlying schools.

“The elementary schools had some staff members in the buildings this summer,” Dorathy said. “They had to move, and they were in their rooms trying to prepare their classrooms. It wasn’t an everyday occurrence. They were in the building more than they normally were in those buildings.”

Water consumption was also an issue during July as the district’s water bill was more than $34,000. One-half of that cost was charged to the Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center. The athletic complex around BHS and the ball fields cost the district $11,660.84 in water usage.

“Some of that I know has to do with watering the ball fields,” Dorathy said. “When it comes to the football and ball fields, if you don’t water those, you risk some safety issues.

“Then we also had some obligation to water the landscaping at the performing arts center and the new primary center as they were going through their first summer. The landscaping company recommended it to us. It took a lot of water, way more than we could afford. So essentially, we shut those sprinkler systems down now.”

Dorathy said a district temperature-control policy would be enacted during the upcoming months. He wants to make sure he never receives a utility this high again.

“We are addressing the situation,” he said. “It was very wasteful. We are stepping in here and making sure it doesn’t happen again.”


rbayer 6 years, 10 months ago

The July utility bills for USD 348 are available at this link (PDF format)

A spreadsheet showing electricity and water usage at each of the buildings in the City is available at this link (PDF format)

(The water consumption listed on the utility bills and spreadsheet are in cubic feet. There are approximately 7.5 gallons in each cubic foot of water.)

A few points worth noting:

1.) The article compares July, 2010 versus July, 2011; however, a more useful comparison is for a month when school was held (April, 2011) versus July, 2011 when USD 348 did not hold classes. July electricity consumption was 69% above April. By comparison, a university in town that holds summer classes saw its electric consumption increase by 43% in July over April. Keep in mind that this university maintains 24-hour residence halls, performance/study spaces, and laboratories.

2.) The article does not address a $17,000+ water bill at the new Primary Center where there are no athletic fields or newly-installed landscaping. The usage for the PC is approximately 1,690,000 gallons of water. That's enough water to fill two and a half Olympic-sized swimming pools.

3.) The water consumption for USD 348 was 40% of all the water used in Baldwin City in the month of July.

4.) The total utility cost of over $80,000 mentioned in the article does not include utilities usage at the two outlying locations in Vinland and Marion Springs that are still being kept open as running facilities.


rbayer 6 years, 10 months ago

Now in a budget as tight as USD 348's, you can imagine that having to suddenly find a lot more money would be difficult. According to the article, the $80,000 bill was double that of July, 2010. So where to find another $40,000? According to another article in this week's Signal, Jimmy writes the following:

"The board chose to keep the supplemental general mill levy at 22.311 mills, because if it was lowered, the district would also lose state funding."

However, if you look back at the Signal's article from July 14, 2011 covering the last Board meeting ( you can see that the supplemental mill levy was proposed to increase to only 21.835 mills. That means that from July to August, the supplemental was requested to increase an additional .476 mills. A mill is worth approximately $74,000 for USD 348, which means that the Administration asked the Board to increase our property tax by approximately $35,200 from the amount approved in July. There was no explanation provided to the Board as to why the supplemental was increased, and unfortunately for us citizens, none of the Board members asked.

Robin Bayer 203 9th Street


Julie Craig 6 years, 10 months ago

What in the world!?!? Did someone leave the water running at the PC for a week or two?

Why is there not a separate control for the Principal's office at the High School? We have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars as a district for "efficiency experts" to tell us how to save money. Even I can tell that in the summer, the principal will be working when the building is otherwise empty.


Bakerboy25 6 years, 10 months ago

It is very easy to waste money when it is not yours, tremendous leadership.


mellowyellow 6 years, 10 months ago

So now the kids & staff suffer due to the waste of money in July ?!? Could they not have bought a window or portable AC unit for the office & other areas at BHS for less money? This is nuts.


Stacy Napier 6 years, 10 months ago

Wait till they have to foot the whole bill for the ball park lights in the summer.

And of course if we didn't pay a fortune for power and water in this town it wouldn't have made that much of a difference. Now we get hit double. I pay more in my bill and I will pay more in my taxes to pay the schools bill.

Just as Bakerboy said it is easy to waste when it is governement money.


Goldie 6 years, 9 months ago

I think what is really disturbing is the fact school was not in session. Why were the electric bills so high for an empty school(s). A snafu like this borders on incompetence. We deserve better


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