Shawnee Mission School District will pay fraction of $1.6M gas bill from February cold snap

Shawnee Mission gas bill

Shawnee Mission has settled a $1.6 million natural gas bill — a result of the February winter storm — for a final total of $337,577. This is after a contract adjustment, conducted by the Texas-based natural gas company, dropped the bill down to $675,000. File photo. Photo credit Kyle Palmer.

The Shawnee Mission School District has finally  settled with a Texas-based natural gas company and will pay a fraction of its original $1.6 million invoice received after February’s winter storm.

Why it matters: After a record cold snap in February, Symmetry Energy Solutions, a third-party natural gas distributor the district contracts with to supply its energy needs, hit Shawnee Mission with the $1.6 million bill — a single-month total nearly three times the district’s natural gas budget for the entire 2020-21 school year.

But it wasn’t just Shawnee Mission dealing with this issue. Most of the 180 school districts in Kansas were impacted in similar ways, according to the Kansas Association of School Boards.

The details: After going through a contract adjustment by Symmetry, Chief Financial Officer Russell Knapp told the board of education on Monday the $1.6 million total had been negotiated down around $675,000.

The district then began working on a final resolution with Symmetry.

Now, Knapp says the district is on the hook for paying $337,577 for the February bill. That roughly equals one-fifth of the original $1.6 million invoice.

In the settlement, the district was represented by Overland Park lawyer Jim Zakoura of Smithyman & Zakoura, who helped negotiate the reduced charges.

The board of education unanimously approved the settlement agreement on Monday.

What happens next: Mary Sinclair, the SM East area board member, asked if there would be an “exploration about how to structure contracts in the future.”

Knapp said a proposal for that should be getting back to district administration in 45 to 60 days.

In the meantime, the board earlier this summer approved a new one-year agreement with Symmetry for $600,000.