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Energy costs to top budget by $200,000

Starpoint School District officials expect energy costs to exceed the provision in this year's budget by almost $200,000.

But administrators say the district will avert a deficit this year.

Stephen J. Lunden, the district's director of administrative services, discussed the issue at a school board budget review session.

Figures show the board allocated $177,414 this fiscal year for diesel fuel to run school buses. But consumption so far indicates the district actually will spend $267,414 by June 30.

The board, likewise, had budgeted $442,346 for natural gas, but now projects it will spend $491,718.

Electricity costs are expected to total $780,546, more than $67,000 more than budgeted.

But a reserve fund and canceling plans to prepay a $137,671 insurance bill have allowed the district to deal with the unexpected increases.

Lunden said that cushion won't be available next year when, he projected, expenditures will total $347,638 for diesel fuel, $737,577 for natural gas and $877,628 for electricity.

Diesel fuel costs, he said, will increase partly because of a new state mandate requiring school buses to use a new "low sulfur fuel product that will raise the price."

Natural gas rates are expected to go up 50 percent next year, while electricity is expected to rise 15 percent, he said.

Lunden said the high energy costs caught most school districts off guard late last summer after school budgets already had been approved.

Mark Domino, the board's vice president and a National Grid employee, said the board will have to deal with rising energy costs immediately.

"We'll need to make sure we're aggressive in managing those costs and take a tough look at how we are using energy, and see if there is anything we can do to use less than we are," he said.

Lunden said the school district already has taken several steps to cut consumption such as reducing the heat to 55 degrees at 4 p.m. each day, two hours earlier than last semester, whenever possible.


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