Progressive environmental efforts continue to enter the mainstream as California aims to improve energy efficiency at its schools.
Turlock Unified School District will be receiving a surge of funds after approving the California Clean Energy Job Act Implementation at the last board meeting which, through Proposition 39, provides school districts with state allocated funds to support clean energy projects and job creation.
The new fund was created as part of the Clean Energy Job Fund that the state of California will annually shift funds into, with transfers expecting to begin this current fiscal year. School districts are eligible to receive up to $381 million dollars and TUSD is looking to receive approximately $3.5 million over a five year period though an exact date is not set for when the district will receive the funds since the state is still developing the process. There is also one caveat: the state must budget for Clean Energy Job Fund each and every year.
“As it stands right now we have the potential for over 3 million dollars but it’s based on a positive economy and the state annually putting these funds into the budget for schools to use,” explained Roger Smith, the District’s facilities planner and safety coordinator.
TUSD will receive a total of $243,696 for planning funds in the2013-2014 fiscal year. The District and eCademy Charter at Crane are treated as separate entities based on the state’s developed model for allocation of funds. This means that the District will receive 30 percent of $192,626 in planning amounts, 30 percent of its total, while eCademy will receive 100 percent of its total funds for planning at $51,070. Board member Frank Lima expressed concerns over the unequal distribution of funds between the district and the charter school at the last school board meeting.
“I did the math and just on the initial set of funds eCademy is getting more than $250 per student and the rest of the district is getting less than $50. We’re not going to turn away from the funds, but from an administrative perspective trying to run a school district and from a school board perspective trying to make these decisions, it’s incredibly inequitable and unfair because of all those sites where we need it the most,” said Lima. He also acknowledged that the District cannot change these rules and that it is their job to work within the guidelines that the state gives them.
The funds that the district will receive are purely oriented toward facility development and job creation which compliments efforts TUSD has been making in the District over the past five years. Efforts include the implementation of an energy education program that informs district employees on basic ways to save energy such as closing the door when the air conditioning is on and turning off lights. These efforts have saved the District over $2 million dollars, a 26 percent reduction, according to Mike Trainor Assistant Superintendent of Business Services.
The District’s next step includes meeting to discuss the solicitation of qualifications and proposals to consultant services to perform screenings, energy audits, and recommendations for the expenditure plan of the District’s new funds.
Superintendent Sonny DaMarto said that new developments are positive for the District.
“Anytime we can save money that is a priority because the more we save the more we can put back into our students and educational purposes.”