Washington County school system to monitor high fuel costs

November 26, 2007|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - The price of heating oil being used in Washington County's public schools has spiked this winter, and officials say they will monitor and manage the purchase of fuel oil to minimize the impact.

Dale Diller, energy management analyst for Washington County Public Schools, says the school system recently received its first delivery of heating oil that will be used this winter. That load was 43 percent more expensive than last year's average cost, he said.

Last year's price was $1.63 per gallon, he said. For the recent order, the school system paid $2.33 per gallon.

"We anticipated some level of increase," said Assistant Superintendent for School Operations Boyd Michael.

Last year, the school system spent $568,245 on heating fuel. He said officials expected costs to rise, budgeting $863,273 for this fiscal year.

Through a competitive bidding process, Michael said the school system pays less for heating oil than other consumers do.


During the last fiscal year, the school system spent $571,032 on fuel used in school system vehicles, not for heating buildings. Michael said that amount was increased to $633,339 for this fiscal year.

He said the school system pays about 40 cents less per gallon of diesel fuel than consumers could pay at their local gas station. The price fluctuates with the market rate, Michael said.

As fuel prices rise, he said those increases affect heating fuel, diesel for school buses and electricity prices.

The school system bids heating oil cooperatively with the City of Hagerstown to gain an advantage in pricing. A shift toward more natural gas and electricity use also is possible, depending on the price of each energy source.

A large part of the nearly $8 million Washington County Public Schools spends on utilities, including fuel, goes toward electricity - $5.3 million. Last year, the school system spent $4.1 million on electricity.

Diller said the school system entered into a contract for electricity at a fixed rate, keeping costs relatively steady. The spike in the amount budgeted for electricity is due in part to an unanticipated 42 percent increase in the cost of electricity purchased from Hagerstown.

He said the school system strives to buy heating fuel and electricity cheap and use less of it to control energy costs.

Since Diller was hired in 2006, he also has put many energy-saving projects in the county's schools. Setbacks are controlled so the buildings are cooler at night. Lighting projects that offer better light at a lower cost also are in place. Boiler improvements and more efficient equipment also help reduce costs.

"We are constantly striving to improve the energy efficiency of our facilities without sacrificing quality, comfort or safety," Diller said.

The Herald-Mail Articles