USD 348 utility bill for July doubles from 2010
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.”