BANGOR, Maine — The Bangor School Department is facing $440,000 in unanticipated costs because of a much higher than budgeted price for natural gas, a roof repair at one school and several students enrolling in a charter school, Superintendent Betsy Webb said Monday night.
The School Department budgeted for a 15 percent increase in the cost of natural gas, but it came in at an 80 percent increase, Webb said. At $833,000, the cost of natural gas will be about $375,000 higher than expected this year. The district had planned to spend about $458,000.
That’s still less than the district would be paying for oil, according to Alan Kochis, the School Department’s director of business services.
Nine of the 10 schools in Bangor use natural gas. The Downeast School uses heating oil.
The high price of natural gas likely can be attributed to a high demand and the low capacity to accommodate that demand in Maine, according to Andrew Barrowman, sales and marketing manager for Bangor Gas Co.
He said Tuesday that Bangor Gas is a distributor and does not have any control over the price.
In addition, a roof at William S. Cohen School leaked in July and caused water damage, which will cost the district $30,000 to repair. Webb said the repairs are underway and should be completed within the next few weeks. It will not affect the start of school on Sept. 2 or the students, she said.
Adding to the department’s costs, five students will attend Maine’s first virtual charter school, Maine Connections Academy, which is opening this fall. The students at that school take all their classes online, so they come from school districts across the state.
Like all charter schools, Maine Connections Academy is funded by the local school districts from which students come. When a student decides to attend a charter school, the school district sends the charter school the state and local subsidy that covers the cost of educating that student.
The Bangor School Department will send $35,000 to the virtual charter school for the five students that chose to enroll there, Webb said.
“We have to find that money somewhere,” she said Monday evening.
Last spring, voters approved a total school budget of $43.57 million.
As a result of the unexpected costs, Webb has frozen spending on all nonessential items for the Bangor schools. She said the district has the supplies it needs to start the school year.