Error leads to high electric bill

NILES — The Howland Local School District was overcharged $40,000 for electricity by Niles City Utilities because of a faulty spreadsheet formula.

The error was caught and rectified and Niles City Council approved Wednesday refunding the money to the school district. Howland Local Schools Treasurer Rhonda Amorganos said the spreadsheets the light department uses were being compounded monthly, which resulted in the monthly electric bill reaching around $10,000 at one point at Howland Springs Primary School.

Monthly electric bills at the school are normally $700 to $1,500, Amorganos said, and she credited district budgetary clerk Michele Vlosich, who started with the district in July, with catching the error about a month ago. Such errors aren’t always easy to spot in a district with a $30 million budget, Amorganos said, and this one started sometime in March and ballooned with each month’s bill.

“It started to get large and we knew something weird was going on,” Amorganos said.

Amorganos said things like this happen in the accounting world, and spreadhseet cell formulas can go bad and compound amounts. When the district approached the city about the charges the district was assured the situation would be corrected, she said.

“They were very easy to work with, got on it right away, found out what the problem was and offered to give the money back immediately,” she said.

Niles Service Director Ed Stredney said the overcharging began because the city placed a new meter at the school in February that was trying to bill the system with a code from the old meter.

“We’ve been in contact with the district and the state auditors about it,” Stredney said. “Accidents happen and it’s been corrected.”