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County school districts get relief from gas bills

Staff writer

County school districts, which buy natural gas through consortiums, are breathing a sigh of relief after settling with gas suppliers over costs charged during February’s cold snap.

Marion, Goessel, Peabody-Burns, and Centre districts are part of the Kansas Joint Utilities Management Program associated with the Kansas Association of School Boards.

Austin Harris, director of member engagement for the school board association, said KJUMP reached a settlement with Houston-based Symmetry Energy Solutions a month ago.

“We are working to get it out to our members,” Harris said.

The settlement saved 175 school districts statewide a total of $4 million, Harris said.

How much each district will save will vary.

When exorbitant invoices for February went out, districts had the option of paying the full amount or making a minimum payment and hoping things would resolve later.

“Those that paid the minimum amount won’t receive a rebate; they will receive a reduced invoice,” Harris said.

That will include Marion schools.

“We actually did not pay the large invoice,” business manager Jordan Metro said. “We paid the bare minimum on that invoice. The total invoice was $19,000.”

Metro said the settlement agreement would save the school district $10,000.

Schools that paid the full amount will receive a reimbursement, Harris said.

Centre superintendent Larry Geist said his district paid the full $18,135 invoice for February’s natural gas.

“We had the choice of paying it or paying the minimum and hoping for it to settle,” Geist said. “We’re getting $7,671.50 back.”

Peabody-Burns school is also expecting a modified bill after having paid its invoice in full.

Goessel superintendent Mark Crawford could not be reached for comment.

During negotiations, the gas provider contract for the current year was put up for bids.

Denver-based WoodRiver Energy is the new provider.

Hillsboro buys gas through a different consortium, Greenbush.

“We work through Greenbush consortium to purchase our natural gas,” Heinrichs said.

After being warned that bills would be astronomical, Hillsboro shut down schools and lowered thermostats.

“We had a regional wrestling tournament that night and shut our building down to about 50 degrees,” superintendent Max Heinrichs said.

February’s bill was about $3,000 more than the previous February.

Greenbush also has a new provider, switching from Constellation to Encore Energy.

Last modified Sept. 23, 2021

 

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