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Sunday, Oct 19, 2014
Pasco Tribune

Schools save a cool $25,000

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LAND O’ LAKES — Pasco County school district officials say they already are seeing savings after the maintenance department assumed responsibility this fall for controlling air conditioning and heating units in school buildings.

So far, 10 schools have gone through a complete billing cycle and saved a combined total of $25,932 over last year, said Mark Fox, the district’s director of maintenance and facilities services.

The largest dollar savings for an individual school was at Anclote High in Holiday, which saw a savings of $4,270, he said. Another school that experienced a big drop in energy costs was Gulfside Elementary, also in Holiday, with $3,439 in savings.

“They vary from there, some being as low as $1,000,” Fox said. “They were pretty good as a whole.”

Fox said his department now has assumed responsibility for turning off and turning on the air conditioning systems at more than 50 of the district’s 78 schools, but the others haven’t been through a full billing cycle yet to determine the savings.

“I’ve been chomping at the bit to get the numbers,” he said.

Traditionally, energy settings were controlled by the principal and the plant manager at each school, but over the summer Fox and his staff proposed to the school board that the district could save money if the maintenance department controlled those settings remotely.

Fox said his goal for the year is to save $500,000.

The cooling and heating units at schools often were left running on weekends or overnight when no one was in the building, and that led to unnecessary expenses for the district, Fox said.

“All we are doing is turning it on when it is supposed to be on and turning it off when it is supposed to be off,” he said.

The department experienced initial “push back here and there” from principals when the change was announced, but for the most part that’s past, and “we are working as a team,” Fox said.

Assistant Superintendent Ray Gadd told the school board last week that the district could potentially see more energy savings down the road.

“We are very optimistic on how that program is going so far,” he said. “We have just scratched the surface.”

Energy conservation has been a big topic for the school board this year, especially in light of a revenue shortfall that sent district officials scrambling to find ways to cut expenses as they planned the 2013-14 budget.

In addition to the new role for the maintenance department, the board has heard proposals from two private companies that specialize in making systems more energy efficient.

rblair@tampatrib.com

(813) 371-1853

Twitter: @RBlairTBO

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