Lawrence school officials say they're still trying to determine how a proposed rate change by Westar Energy would affect the district.
Kyle Hayden, assistant superintendent for business and operations, said that from what he has seen so far, the proposed rate change could mean a 2 percent increase in electric bills for the Lawrence district. And for a district that spends more than $100,000 a month in electric bills, that would be significant.
“Basically, it looks like the rate increase is still in discussion stage, but based on comments from Westar, a 2 (percent) increase is approximately $26,400,” Hayden said in an email this week.
But Jeff Martin, Westar's vice president for regulatory affairs, said the rate request his company has submitted is intended to reduce utility costs for most schools in Kansas, although the impact is likely to vary from one district to another.
“We look at (schools) as a total customer class, but they're going to be different depending on how they utilize those facilities at different times,” Martin said.
In April, Westar filed a request with state utility regulators to increase rates by $31.7 million a year, or 1.7 percent. But that increase would come through what Westar calls a “rebalancing” of rates between different classes of customers, based on the cost of delivering service to those different classes.
The plan, which is still under review before the Kansas Corporation Commission, would increase residential rates by about 8.8 percent, while most small and medium-sized businesses would see their bills go up about 6 percent.
But rates would go down about 8.4 percent for large industrial customers, and schools would get about a 7.6 percent rate cut.
Schools are treated as a separate customer class, Martin said, because, “Schools use most of their energy during the nonsummer months, where a residential home obviously uses it all year, but specifically in the summertime when we have to have a lot of capacity to serve those residential homes.”
As a result, he said, their rates are calculated differently, based on a lower average cost of service.
Still, Martin said, it's hard to predict the impact that the rate plan would have on any individual district because of the wide variation in the number and size of their buildings and how extensively they use those buildings during the summer months.
Last week the KCC held its final public hearing on the proposed rate change. Written and oral comments will still be accepted through Sept. 23.
A decision on the proposed rate change is expected in December.