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Perkiomen Valley School Board caught wasting tax dollars

Board members earn an "F" in fiscal management.

Monday night the Perkiomen Valley School Board took a step backwards.  As opposed to investigating other opportunities to save money on energy costs, despite advice, they took the easy way out.

The Board entertained and voted on only one single proposal.  As a policy they aren’t required to bid out professional services but with the budget crisis, they should’ve at least tried.  Slop and mismanagement.  Another "F" on their report cards.

Fair questions to the Board:

1.       Why hire an outside agency? This information should be available from our current controls company or Facilities.

2.       Why can Facilities not handle this?  Typically 95% of the recommendations are to replace lighting easily done by current Facilities staff at a great savings vs. contracted labor.  Add occupancy sensors which the current controls company can provide.  Survey existing pumps/motors, and replace with variable frequency drives easily handled by Facilities.  Survey building envelope and have Facilities caulk around windows, control joints, doorways, etc. 

3.       Why not request an energy audit from our utility supplier?  PECO does this for free - zero cost.

4.       How is the actual determination of savings quantified and what is the expected return?  If the payback period is longer than the actual life expectancy of the equipment – it’s a loser.  Why not take the time to study it?

Just weeks ago they discussed whether they could add an additional 2 hours a day for a Social Studies teacher at a cost of $7,500; today they awarded a contract for $7,500.00, plus a percentage of the cost of the overall construction contract without listening to other firms or shopping for a better number.  Board policy for paperclips, if over $4,000 requires at least 3 bids.  Other firms structure it where the costs of capital improvements are fronted by the firm, and paid back via actual energy savings.  While this does not reduce the actual monthly utility bills until the cost is recovered, it limits the District’s risk and frees up funds, capping actual utility cost for the duration of the payback.  

Section 704 of their policies manual that requires a yearly maintenance plan, also a 5 year plan directed to preventative maintenance - which apparently based on Monday night’s comments - is no longer followed. Too much like work.  Our District’s own high salaried personnel could have easily assessed energy savings and simply made these changes themselves.

Pottsgrove did it themselves, why didn’t we?  2.5% of $3.5M (assumed cost of replacing HVAC at South Elementary) is $87,500 – paid to a third party who will tell us what we already know. 

Area 4 Republican Committee persons like me were elected by taxpayers to endorse School Director candidates who would balance the educational needs of our children with sound fiscal management and act as taxpayer watchdogs.  This means doing the hard work of cost-cutting.  So far in 2012 we have watched this Board shoot down a proposal for a six-month employee wage freeze with no negotiation with the teacher’s union, and decided at a special meeting to use Act 1 exceptions to increase real estate taxes by 2.285% or 0.65 mills in the 2012-13 budget year.  Zero push-back against the union; just blithely increasing taxes without first attacking cost savings which could’ve prevented the increase.  They spent considerable tax dollars on performance management software, which if used would hold various department heads accountable to budgets and to seeking the best deals in all cases – but they don’t use the software because they can’t figure out how. 

Parents should remember this when some service or activity fee or cost of parking passes goes up.  Area 4 Republican leaders are putting Republican PVSD Board members on notice: Tighten it up.  Do the hard work you were elected to do and for which we endorsed you.  If you call yourselves Republicans to get elected by Republicans then you must start acting like it.

Jack Minster

Trappe Republican Committee

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Lee October 11, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Hi Jack, where is Area 4 and do you have a website or can list your meetings here? thank you! We are spending waaaay too much everywhere, it is frightening.
Jack Minster October 11, 2012 at 06:33 PM
Hi Lee, Area 4 encompasses several municipalities and portions thereof. The School Board and elected leaders know who we are, but for folks wanting to get involved and help the Republican party, it goes by where you live. The County Republican website: http://www.montgomerycountygop.com/ has a map at the top. If you click your town, you'll learn the names of your leaders. Myself and Stu Strauss comprise the Trappe Committee, and our site is: trappegop.org Also I'm glad to help any Republicans regardless of where they may live, so email any specifics to jackfortrappe@gmail.com Thanks, Jack
Jack Minster October 11, 2012 at 08:29 PM
If you would like to contact Board Members who ran as Republicans, who are: Randy Bennett Diane Landes John King Sam Schweigert Ann Mantey Gerry Barnefiher Lori Snyder Lynn Bigelow Click here then click on each name to launch an email http://pvsd.schoolfusion.us/modules/cms/pages.phtml?pageid=19661&sessionid=8fcf8479fd5bdbbd5fd4ca487ae93c47
Cecilia Conlen October 12, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Energy savings have been my argument all along. By the way, HVAC systems and lighting account for the biggest amount of some of the cost. Changing light or upgrading the HVAC will make a hugh impact. Why are so many of the lights being left on in the schools over night? Sorry, the custodians leave before midnight, but the lights are on all thru the night. I went past on NEW YEAR's Eve and they were on-no one just left or is working. This is a waste of energy and tax dollars.... Thanks for bringing this to light..
Peter Moran October 12, 2012 at 11:09 PM
Hello, I am the leader of the Sustainability Committee of PVHS's environmental advocacy group, Take Action, as well as vice president of the group as a whole. I originally came up with the proposal to work with an Energy Service Company (ESCO). After some work, my group met with the district superintendent, Dr. Rogers, and later on the board, to present the idea of working with an ESCO. An ESCO is a business that installs energy efficient improvements to facilities in order to lower energy needs, and therefore costs. Most importantly, through Energy Saving Performance Contracts, the amount of money saved from improvements are contractually guaranteed. If promised savings are not met, the ESCO will pay the difference. Additionally, there are no upfront costs to the improvements made – the cost of installation is paid for by the ESCO and paid back over time, with the payment to the ESCO being less than the savings made by the improvements. This means that money is made, not lost. To answer some of your concerns: We need to hire a consultant because we need somebody with expertise and experience to make sure we get what we want from the ESCO. The facility cannot handle the job of the ESCO or the consultant because we neither have such expertise, or the up front money for such improvements an ESCO can provide. The energy audits are free and come at the risk of the ESCOs. Finally, the ESCO manages and pays for upkeep for the installations during the payback period.
Peter Moran October 12, 2012 at 11:12 PM
I forgot to add: If you wish to know more about ESCOs, read this website: http://www.naesco.org/resources/esco.htm If you wish to know more about Energy Saving Performance Contracts read: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/femp/financing/espcs.html Also, the Wikipedia pages on both are very informative. If you wish to know any more, or I didn't explain something clearly enough, please ask. Take Action hopes to write up some more information about the ESCO plan for the Patch soon, so keep an eye out.
Peter Moran October 12, 2012 at 11:33 PM
One more thing I missed: As explained by Mr. Subers in the article linked below, "the Guaranteed Energy Savings Act allowed school districts to enter contracts with ESCOs if the costs incurred in order to achieve savings were recovered within a 20-year period. He added that the $7,500 fee would be included in the contract to be awarded to an ESCO." http://www.montgomerynews.com/articles/2012/10/12/springford_reporter_valley_item/news/doc50783982cfa98001378464.txt?viewmode=fullstory
Richard Bouher October 13, 2012 at 12:55 PM
Peter, As stated by PHM st the October 1 meeting, how we pay for the improvements are up to the district, and not all ESCO's work that way. I do not disagree with using the ESCO'S to pay for improvements, just the entering into a contract with a company to tell us what we already know. There is a board policy requirement that requires that maintenance.had the information available that is required by PHM, and even you recognize that HVAC/lighting is the biggest saver. Do ypu really think that PHM is worth 2.5% of the overall cost of the recommendations? Please keep up the good work.
Peter Moran October 13, 2012 at 04:21 PM
Thank you, On the part of board bringing in a consultant, I have to say I simply don't know enough, and in that that part in particular I don't deal with - I'm just trying to get them to work with an ESCO, and if they will only do it if they work with a consultant, then I am happy it will happen anyway. All I understood was that the board did not want to work with the ESCO themselves because they believed the district did not have enough people or time to deal with the whole process and that without someone skilled in working with ESCOs, the deal with the company may not be as beneficial. I think the board is just being cautious, and that they don't want to make an accidental mess out of working with the ESCO that could potentially make things worse in the future. I think from that point, the 2.5% cost for PHM may be worth the insurance it provides, especially since the money comes from the savings the project provides. Additionally, I believe the board trusts PHM because they recently helped with a project at Owen J. Roberts concerning ESCOs, though it was slightly different because they specifically wanted solar panels, which will likely not be in our project because their cost outweighs their returns than other improvements. However, we can always question if someone else could provide a lower cost or a better service, but I think that the members who went forward with the proposal just wanted to get what they had already.
Richard Bouher October 13, 2012 at 10:40 PM
You are correct, the ones that voted for just did not want to do the hard work. As far as the consultant goes, it is a waste of money. Do the research, and utilize others experience to get it right. By that I mean the other school districts in the area. I know that means additional "work", but that is thier jobs
Warren Jacobs October 16, 2012 at 01:18 PM
Delegating work to unqualified people because they work for cheap is not usually cost effective. This can be easily seen by visiting any of our PV schools and taking a quick glance at the condition of the landscapes. (for a relevant example)
Jack Minster October 16, 2012 at 01:30 PM
Firing unqualified expensive full-time employees and cautiously bidding to competitive outsource providers - is that your alternative proposal, Mr. Jacobs? If FTEs cannot caulk windows and doors also mow grass to your satisfaction, what then is your solution?
Warren Jacobs October 16, 2012 at 02:10 PM
That might possibly work. Cautious is a key word. When the focus is on "competitive" there can be a tendency to end up penny wise and pound foolish. Somewhere along the management chain it's important to have someone who knows what they are doing. Whether they are making and enforcing contract spec.s or directly managing marginally skilled workers.

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