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Otago Primary Principals' Association president Brent Caldwell said schools took creative steps to keep the cost of heating down. Such moves included using energy consultants to broker better energy rates, using time clocks on boilers, timer-controlled wall heaters and heating according to the weather.
Nonetheless, this year's long winter meant those steps were still not enough for some Dunedin schools.
Andersons Bay School principal Hamish Rutherford said its $4100 coal budget blew out in winter to $5100.
The early start to winter and the cold weather throughout spring meant the school was running heating longer. The school's electricity bills were up and a growing roll had contributed to higher energy costs, Mr Rutherford said.
"It is always tricky meeting ends with our operating budget, but we do not want the children getting cold."
Next year, the school would have to cut funding for new assets to cover this year's shortfall.
Mr Caldwell said energy costs had increased and Ministry of Education operations funding struggled to keep up with rising energy prices.
The ministry adjusted schools' energy funding based on inflation.
However, it had indicated this form of funding was not sustainable in the long term.
"Many of our schools do not enjoy modern buildings and rely on less-than-efficient systems.
"The operations grant allocations for heat, light and power should be reflective of the real and actual costs faced by schools," Mr Caldwell said.
- Cameron Carpenter