Iowa City Schools Face $ 170,000 In Additional Gas Costs Due To Cold Snap


The freezing weather that engulfed much of North America in February is now straining the budget for schools in Iowa City.

“The severe cold snap that hit the southern United States has caused a real crisis in the supply of natural gas, and the resulting cost of the product,” Les Finger, principal, told the school board on Tuesday. district budget and finances. “The district also estimated this and incurred approximately $ 170,000 to $ 175,000 in additional expenses for a month of natural gas charges.”

The district budgets annual utility costs for natural gas, electricity, and water based on five-year averages, square footage, and changes in utility rates. The prediction was that Iowa City schools would spend $ 45,682 per month – but the actual cost incurred was $ 219,306, or about $ 173,624 more than expected.

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The neighborhood participates in a cooperative that purchases natural gas in advance in order to prevent the impact of price fluctuations. However, the price spike was big enough that the neighborhood still incurs additional costs, Finger told Press-Citizen by email.

The district will cite “unusual, unique and unforeseen circumstances” in seeking approval for additional spending from the School’s Budget Review Committee, an independent body within the Iowa Legislature.

The SBRC will not act on the request until a hearing on June 17. So far, the district has used its general fund to pay the fees.

To date, there is one more district besides Iowa City that has requested to appear at the hearing for the same reason, according to Kassandra Cline of the SBRC.

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February 2021 was the coldest month in the United States for more than three decades, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. For six states – Iowa, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma – it was among the coldest February 10s on record.

The polar vortex hit Texas particularly hard, where at least 151 people died from hypothermia and other related causes between mid-February and early March. At the top, 10 million people were without electricity. The wind chill has fallen below zero as far south as the Rio Grande River.

Natural gas production in February 2021 declined due to a “freeze” or temporary interruptions in production, according to the Energy Information Administration. Demand for natural gas also increased significantly that month, when residents of the county rushed to heat their homes. Many buildings in the school district use geothermal energy – a means of heating and cooling that doesn’t rely on natural gas – which means the costs could have been much higher.

The Iowa City School District purchases about 84% of its electricity from MidAmerican Energy. The rest comes from Alliant Energy and the Linn Count Rural Electricity Cooperative.

“It’s only about half of our buildings, so you can imagine what the expense would have been without geothermal energy,” Finger said at the board meeting.

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Cleo Krejci covers education for the Iowa City Press-Citizen. You can reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter via @_CleoKrejci.

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