School Climate & Safety

Soaring Utility Bills Put Calif. Schools In Budgetary Bind

By Jessica L. Sandham — January 17, 2001 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Many California school districts say that they likely will have to deplete budget reserves or make cuts in student programs to keep up with the soaring cost of utilities stemming from a statewide energy crisis.

Ninety-seven percent of the 154 districts surveyed recently by the California Association of School Business Officials reported that they face unbudgeted increases in energy costs. And 85 percent said that those unexpected costs threaten expenditures tied directly to student instruction.

At the 7,200- student Whittier City School District in Los Angeles County, for example, officials say gas bills have recently jumped as much as four times the amount of previous bills.

“We’ve already sent out fliers and talked to principals and custodians about turning off lights, heaters, and computers at night,” said Rita Dixon, the district’s assistant superintendent of business.

The CASBO survey, conducted online over a four-day period last month and released Jan. 8, revealed that the rising energy costs are of great concern to many school business officials, said Kevin Gordon, the association’s executive director.

“While individual consumers have been very concerned about the impact of the energy crisis on themselves, there’s been some lack of understanding that public institutions are going to be hit very hard,” Mr. Gordon said.

In the rural, 900-student Esparto district near Sacramento, officials anticipate that energy bills will rise 30 percent to 40 percent, or $20,000 more than last year—a major hit for a small district operating within tight margins, said David R. Beeskau, the district’s chief business official.

“We may go into our budget reserves, or look at deferring other purchases until next year,” Mr. Beeskau said. “You have to say, ‘Well, we planned on it, but maybe we can’t afford that this year.’”

Relief in Sight?

Gov. Gray Davis focused considerable attention on the energy crisis in his State of the State Address last week, characterizing a 4-year-old electricity-deregulation initiative as a “colossal and dangerous failure” that has pinched power supplies even as demand has grown.

Consequently, natural gas prices have risen steadily in the state, and California officials recently approved a temporary hike in electricity prices to help shore up the state’s largest utility companies, which are teetering on the verge of bankruptcy.

In his $104 billion budget plan for fiscal 2002, Mr. Davis proposed $1 billion to help respond to the energy crisis, including a $250 million conservation effort. He has urged state lawmakers to enact other measures to stabilize the price and supply of electricity.

The budget also included a significant increase in education spending, though Mr. Gordon said that much of that money is earmarked for specific programs and will not cover districts’ rising energy costs for the current and upcoming fiscal years.

“We’re probably going to ask the legislature for some one-time money to backfill the impact of the energy crisis on the current year, and an ongoing cost-of-living adjustment to reflect the longer-term impact of the energy crunch,” Mr. Gordon said.

Legislators are considering several relief measures, said Robert Oakes, a spokesman for state Sen. Tom Torlakson. The senator, a teacher for 25 years, recently encouraged legislative leaders to incorporate money for energy-conservation projects in schools into a proposed school facilities bond.

“We have to find immediate, short-term relief in cooperation with the governor, but we also need to look at long-range solutions,” Mr. Oakes said. “We know schools are hurting, and we’d like to help.”

A version of this article appeared in the January 17, 2001 edition of Education Week as Soaring Utility Bills Put Calif. Schools In Budgetary Bind


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Mathematics Webinar
Pave the Path to Excellence in Math
Empower your students' math journey with Sue O'Connell, author of “Math in Practice” and “Navigating Numeracy.”
Content provided by hand2mind
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Recruitment & Retention Webinar
Combatting Teacher Shortages: Strategies for Classroom Balance and Learning Success
Learn from leaders in education as they share insights and strategies to support teachers and students.
Content provided by DreamBox Learning
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum Reading Instruction and AI: New Strategies for the Big Education Challenges of Our Time
Join the conversation as experts in the field explore these instructional pain points and offer game-changing guidance for K-12 leaders and educators.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Climate & Safety Teachers With Guns: District by District, a Push to Arm Educators Is Growing
The number of districts with armed educators is rising. An inside look at one of them.
12 min read
Educators with the Benjamin Logan Local School District receive training from the Logan County Sheriff's office to join the district's armed response team in Bellefontaine, Ohio, on June 26, 2023.
Educators with the Benjamin Logan Local School District receive training from the Logan County Sheriff's Office to join the district's Armed Response Team in Bellefontaine, Ohio, on June 26, 2023.
Eli Hiller for Education Week
School Climate & Safety Let's Talk About When Cars Need to Stop for School Buses
A refresher course on the rules of the road involving stopped school buses.
1 min read
Collage of school bus, cars, stop sign and a neighborhood map.
Laura Baker/Education Week via Canva
School Climate & Safety Opinion School Police Officers Should Do More Than Just Surveil and Control. Here’s How
SROs should be integrated into schools as a means to support students and create a safe, humanizing environment.
H. Richard Milner IV
5 min read
opinion sro school police 80377388 01
Dynamic Graphics/Getty
School Climate & Safety 4 Tips to Keep Students' Misbehavior From Sapping Up Class Time
Students' misbehavior has become one of educators' top concerns. Schools need a more deliberate approach to handle it, an expert says.
6 min read
Image of young students in a classroom
Parker Davis and Alina Lopez, right, talk about words and acts that cause happiness during morning circle in teacher Susannah Young's 2nd grade class at Lincoln Elementary School in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday, May 4, 2017. Social-emotional learning has been found in research to have a positive effect on students' behavior, but it's not a quick fix for misbehavior.
Ramin Rahimian for Education Week-File