Universities struggle with high energy bills
Published: Saturday, January 21, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 21, 2006 at 12:03 a.m.
ORLANDO - Florida's public universities are trying to get extra funding to defray spiking power expenses.
Energy costs throughout the 11-school system are expected to rise more than 34 percent between the 2004-05 fiscal year and 2006-07, according to preliminary data collected by Ken Jessell, vice president for financial affairs at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.
The state allocates the same amount of money for energy costs throughout the life of a building, leaving school administrators to scrap for funds when utility bills rise.
This year alone, they're expected to total $104 million, a 14 percent increase from last year.
The University of South Florida and Florida Atlantic expect to see a nearly 50 percent increase between 2004 and 2007. The University of Florida expects a 37 percent increase.
At the University of Central Florida, officials estimate rate increases combined with the school's growth will raise utility costs 21 percent this year. The school's monthly power bill topped $1 million for the first time in October.
"Money that would have been available for maintenance gets pulled away," said Bill Merck, UCF vice president for financial affairs. "Deferred maintenance is really the result. That's not healthy in the long run."
At some schools, money intended for academics is paying for power, according to a document Jessell will present to the State University Presidents' Association next week.
"In order to pay utility-costs increases, universities have had to utilize educational and general funds, limiting the universities' ability to meet course demand and increase degree production in critical-needs areas," it says.
"We'd like to have an increase in funds to cover these increases that are beyond our control," Jessell said.
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