Gulfport Schools Hit Hard By Higher Utility Bills

The city of Gulfport raised water rates to help pay for the first phase of the water and sewer master plan. The rate increase only affects homes and businesses that use more than 3,000 gallons of water a month, and that includes Gulfport Schools. In addition, the district may have to pay more for gas and electricity, which means taxes could also go up.

Superintendant Carlos Hicks said the Gulfport School District needs a lot of water to keep its schools running.

"Our 6,000 students and roughly 1,000 employees, everyday, use water to drink, which is a necessity," Hicks said. "We use water in all of our cafeterias, not only to prepare food, but to clean our instruments after preparation and after eating."

With the increased rates, it now costs more to use all that water. In fact, the school district expects to pay an extra $30,000 a year.

"We'll have to take that out of our reserve fund, or cut back on expenditures somewhere else," he said.

But the $30,000 increase is not the only dilemma the school district faces. Mississippi Power is requesting a 9.5 percent rate hike. If that happens, the school district may have to shell out $70,000 more every year. And if the price of natural gas doubles to $100,000, like it did last year, the district may have to consider raising property taxes to help cover the costs.

Hicks says if the district cannot find a way to cut services to students and teachers to save money by the end of the year, the district is looking at close to a one mill tax increase. But he says the school district is doing its best to conserve water, gas and electricity in hopes of keeping its utility bills as low as possible.

Just to put it into perspective, Hicks says the extra $200,000 the district may have to pay for its utility bills could have gone into paying for six new teaching positions.