Area churches among those hit hard by utility bills

CREATED Feb. 24, 2014 - UPDATED: Feb. 24, 2014

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MILWAUKEE - Record high heating bills aren't just hitting homeowners this winter. It's also costing churches a lot of cold hard cash.

At Divine Mercy Congregation there’s no mercy when it comes to this cold winter.

"I’m very concerned," said Patty Bollis, she pays the bills for the church. 

The most recent utility bill for the church, community center, school and gym was $18,000. The month before was nearly $19,000.

 "We definitely budgeted a little bit higher than we did the year before just because of costs. But we definitely did not anticipate an almost 30% increase over last year," said Bollis.

In fact, We Energies says homeowners have used an averaged of 30% more natural gas the last three months compared to a year ago. Bills are up 30% as well.

Winter also wiped out Divine Mercy's $15,000 budget for snow and ice removal.

Add in and unexpected $300,000 beam repair project and it's been a tough year for Divine Mercy.

The people in the pews are also struggling with their own heating bills but the church came up with creative "energy envelopes"  if parishioners want to make additional donations for utility bills.

"We do have very generous parishioners," said Bollis.

We Energies initially predicted bills would be down this year but then Wisconsin residents got hit with the polar vortex again and again.