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School district feels sting of high energy bills

High electricity bills have not only been hitting hard in thepockets of local residents recently, but the Brookhaven SchoolDistrict is also feeling the energy bill sting, officials saidThursday during the monthly board of trustees meeting.

Rates have increased steadily since Hurricane Katrina, with themost dramatic effects coming in the form of fuel adjustment costsover the last few months, district officials said. The district’sFebruary bill was the latest example.

“Essentially, February (electricity bill) was double lastFebruary’s bill,” said Carl Aycock, board president.

The total electricity and natural gas bill for the district lastmonth was $56,335, while the district’s expenses for Feb. 2005 were$34,191, said Superintendent Lea Barrett.

However, district officials were able to cut costs elsewhererecently by decreasing the number of cell phones available for thetransportation department, Barrett pointed out.

The superintendent said the district reduced the number of cellphones from 20 to seven for use on school buses, out-of-townathletic and educational trips and other transportation needs.Also, those in charge of the trips have been encouraged to limituse of the phones to only emergencies.

“We also restricted outgoing calls to this office (centraloffice) and law enforcement if needed,” she said.

Other financial matters discussed Thursday included hiring anengineer and architect, already scheduled to do some work for thedistrict this summer, to evaluate Mullins School to see what needsto be done in order to maintain the building.

“I think we all agree that Mullins…is an important part ofthis community,” said Barrett.

Mullins School houses offices for the food service program,truancy officer, 16th Section land, summer food program, BigBrothers Big Sisters and other programs. Barrett said the schoolcould also have other uses as the district grows.

“If we look at our kindergarten enrollment, we went from 263(students) in 2003-04 to 296 this year,” said Barrett. “Ourenrollment is increasing, and there is a strong possibility that wewill use Mullins to house students in the future.”

Also Thursday, Brookhaven Police Chief Pap Henderson wasrecognized with a plaque for the police department’s continuousefforts to provide a safe environment for district’s students andfaculty.

“We would like to thank you for the tremendous effort you andyour staff have given to the Brookhaven School District. We alwaysknow that we can count on you,” said board member Dan Brown Jr.

Henderson thanked board members and district officials forhonoring him. He complimented the district’s cooperation as well asthe dedication of the police officers.

“I have an outstanding staff,” said Henderson. “A chief ofpolice can only be as good as those who work with him.”

The fourth Tuesday of the month is the board’s regular meetingdate. However, the board met Thursday to avoid meeting next week,which is Spring Break.