CRIPPLE CREEK, Colo. — The small Cripple Creek-Victor Re-1 School District is the latest institution to receive an outrageously high energy bill.
The bill was apparently related to the deep freeze that hit Texas over President's Day weekend, which triggered large jumps in the price of natural gas.
"I opened our February bill and looked at it, and I said, 'that can't be right,'" said Tammy Bruntz, the school district's finance director.
She said the bill, which is normally around $6,500, jumped to $45,000.
"I had a small heart attack, is the way I put it," she said.
Bruntz said she asked her assistant to call Wolf Creek Energy.
"They told her it was due to the big February storm. Prices increased drastically," she said.
Bruntz said the price structure was part of a contract signed before she or the previous budget manager were hired at the district.
Denver7 has been reporting on the impact of the Texas freeze on Colorado customers.
Monica Plimack's normal $30 home gas bill for her condo in North Capitol Hill was more than $725.
And Foothills Animal Shelter's March tab was $21,000 — seven times higher than usual.
Bruntz said the Cripple Creek-Victor gas bill was seven times higher, too.
"How can a small district with just over 300 kids afford a bill like that? That's three quarters of my utilities budget," she said.
Residents in the small mountain town worry the oversized utility bill will impact learning in the classroom.
"It's nuts," Shannon Owen said. "There's no nice way to put that. It's crazy."
Bruntz said that she's going to have to move budget items.
"That's a salary and benefits for somebody," she said.
State regulators are investigating. Gov. Jared Polis said some utilities have failed to take common sense measures.
Bruntz said the utility has indicated it will work with the school district, but she added that at a time when they're still trying to find people to work and deal with the learning losses from the pandemic, shifting resources will make that much more difficult.