OLATHE, Kan. — Several Kansas City-area school districts are pushing back against a proposed electric rate hike that could raise their energy costs by millions of dollars.
It takes a lot of electricity to power a school district. According to Olathe Public Schools, the district’s electric bill for last year ended up being more than $5 million.
Evergy recently announced its desire to raise electric rates to help cover rising costs due to inflation. In the region that includes the Olathe school district, they want to raise electric rates by 25%. That’s an extra $1.2 million a year.
Olathe is joining forces with the DeSoto, Shawnee Mission and Wichita school districts in petitioning to deny these rate hikes.
The Wichita School District superintendent recently testified that paying 25% more for electricity would cost them teachers. The school district wouldn’t be able to hire more and might even need to cut some staff to make up the difference.
Such a huge cost would also cut into the district’s reserve funds, Wichita’s superintendent said.
Evergy also wants to raise electric rates in the Kansas City metro area by 6%. That includes the Shawnee Mission School District, which spent $9 million in utilities last year. This rate hike would cost the district hundreds of thousands of dollars more.
The utility company’s rate increase would also affect residential customers.
People who live in Overland Park, Lenexa and many other Johnson County cities would pay, on average, an extra $3.34 on their monthly electric bills. But those who live in Olathe, DeSoto, Lawrence, Leavenworth and Atchison would pay, on average, an extra $14.42 on their electric bills.
The Kansas Corporation Commission has indicated it believes Evergy’s request is too great, and they are recommending a 1.6% increase for Kansas Central customers and a 7.3% decrease for Kansas Metro customers.
Evergy is fighting this, arguing that since merging Westar and KCPL in 2018, it has not raised its base rates. But due to inflation and rising costs, it needs the extra money to pay the bills.
The KCC will make a decision in December.