While homeowners may flinch at their heating bills due to rising natural gas prices, imagine opening a bill for $104,437. That was the November cost for electric and gas usage at Greenville Independent School District.

Gary Sims, operations director for GISD, presented a report this week to school board trustees, showing that this November’s energy cost was up $8,849 over November 2004.

For the year, the district has budgeted $1,175,370 for electricity and gas.

“While utility costs are within budget at this time, be aware that we have noticed increases at each campus which may deplete budgeted monies before the end of the budget cycle,” Sims informed trustees. “We will continue to monitor this situation and work to keep cost aligned within budget.”

Chris Siebenhausen, director of technology for the district, said the situation could have been worse without the installation of advanced electronically-controlled thermostats.

“For the most part, we have a complete control system in place where the temperatures can be centrally controlled,” Siebenhausen said. “That has been put into place over the last four to five years as new heating and air conditioning units have been installed. We not only installed the units themselves, but the remote controls.”

While it was unclear whether temperatures would actually have to be adjusted downward in classrooms to stay within budget, the technology is in place to make any adjustments as painless as possible.

Other Texas school districts have implemented plans to lower thermostats, and the North Lamar Independent School District in Paris is considering a plan to go to a four-day school week to cope with rising fuel and utility costs.

The single biggest energy user among GISD campuses is Greenville High School, which logged a total energy cost in November of $27,556. That was actually a couple of hundred dollars less than last year.

Greenville Middle School was next, using $16,678 in combined energy use in November this year compared to $14,708 last year.

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