Energy sticker shock hitting cash-strapped Iowa schools

Thursday, December 29, 2005

In a Iowa schools, already hurting for cash, may have to spend up to $40 million more this year than last year for heat and transportation.

Some districts have restricted travel while others have turned to alternative fuel sources. And in some schools, children may have to bundle up as the thermostats are turned down.

Jon Muller, energy analyst for the Iowa Association of School Boards, said winter 2006 will put a crimp on budgets.

"That's going to be about a 30 to 40 percent increase over previous years," he said. "It's bad, but there's not much you can do about it.

"The sticker shock is going to come when they get their bills in January," he said. "Action will occur after the situation becomes real."

About 10-15 percent of Iowa schools use geothermal heat, which can be significantly less expensive, and about 70 percent buy bulk natural gas.

"Every degree we turn down we save about 3 percent on our energy bills," one superintendent said of the heat.

"But you can only go so cool... there are little kids who need to stay warm."

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