Temperatures dropped this week into the 20s and snow began to fall.

Until recently, the past few months were some of the warmest winter days recorded in years.

Warmer temperatures in December and January, however, have not helped area school systems lower their heating bills.

In fact, many systems across the state have implemented measures in an effort to save money to pay soaring heat bills.

The Glasgow and Barren County systems have not taken such drastic measures thus far. Both systems are keeping a close eye on their heating costs and have not ruled out anything should heating costs continue to climb and temperatures continue to drop.

Officials with both systems say each have seen big increases in heating costs.

All Barren County schools are on geothermal systems.

Superintendent Dr. Jerry Ralston says the systems are the most efficient they can have, but says they continue to look for even more ways to save money.

Ralston said he expected recommendations from the head of school system’s maintenance department within a few days on measures that can be taken to cut heating costs.

Bill Ritter, director of pupil personnel and head of buildings and grounds for the Glasgow school system, said school officials are also looking at ways to save money due to rising heating costs.

Ritter said no cut backs have been made at this time.

“We have asked schools to conserve anyway that they can,” says Ritter. “I know of some schools in other districts have asked teachers to stop using some extra things they have in their classrooms such as mini-refrigerators and lamps. If heating costs get worse, we may have to look at things like that.”

Comparing the six-month period from January to June of 2004 to the same time period in 2005, the cost of heating for the Barren County School System increased about $17,000, from $273,000 to $290,000.

Ralston said that figure could have been much higher had a new HVAC system not been installed at the middle school. He said the new unit has saved about $3,000 thus far.

Ritter said although this January was much warmer than January of ’05, the cost for heating the first month of this year was much higher than the same time period in the previous year.

Skyrocketing heating bills are not the only thing hurting school budgets.

Transportation, mainly the cost of fuel to operate buses, is affecting schools as much as any thing, administrators say.

Barren County’s transportation expenses have gone up over $100,000 in fuel prices alone in the past year, according to Ralston.

Glasgow is trying to curb as much extra transportation mileage as possible. According to Ritter, each field trip request is being looked at much closer than in the past. “There are certain transportation costs, such as athletics, that we are already obligated to,” he said.

“As gas and electricity costs go up, it can certainly cause a big dent in our budget,” Ritter said. “Our transportation costs are high, but increasing fuel costs can really hit larger districts, which have more roads for buses to travel than we do. We don’t know what the future will hold, we are just looking at things day by day.”

With natural gas prices spiking, schools across the state are struggling to save money by turning down the heat, weatherizing schools, reducing after-hours use or digging into money reserves.

The Jessamine County school system is already $296,000 over budget for heating this year.

Jessamine Superintendent Lu Young decided to trim the district’s heating bills by reducing temperatures a degree to 67 at her 11 schools. She also eliminated half the refrigerators in teachers’ classrooms, limited personal heaters and reduced the after-hour use of schools.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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