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Charlotte Area News

Ohio School District Demands $500K Refund From Duke Energy

A public school district in Ohio has filed a complaint with that state's utility regulators claiming Duke Energy overcharged it by a half-million dollars. And the district is warning other schools may have been bilked, too. During a routine audit of its electric bills, the Cincinnati Public School district found its large collection of portable classrooms qualified for a discounted rate from Duke Energy. But for at least four years, Duke had been charging the district a higher rate. The school district wants a $500,000 refund, says spokeswoman Janet Walsh. "Every penny counts - we're looking at potentially a $20 million deficit at the end of next school year and potential layoffs, so we believe the money is an overcharge that is owed to us," says Walsh. "We obviously disagree," says Duke Energy spokesman Jason Walls. "We have been in talks with the district about this issue and we've examined this issue very, very closely and we're confident that our billing is correct." Cincinnati Public School officials say Duke should have told it about the lower rate and warns other districts may also be overpaying for electricity in their portable classrooms. Officials at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools say Duke Energy has worked closely with them to lower the district's energy use and electric bills. It's been a tense year in Duke's relationship with Ohio school districts. A few months ago, the utility challenged its property tax assessments, forcing Cincinnati Public Schools and other districts to swallow an unexpected budget cut.