GREEN ENERGY: Schools anticipate energy grants – Press

August 10, 2013 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

SACRAMENTO – Inland Southern California schools could receive more than $35 million for energy-saving projects under the state formula to allocate money from last year’s Prop. 39.

The November ballot measure, passed with 61 percent of the vote, ended a tax break for multistate corporations and set aside $2.5 billion for energy-efficiency projects over the next five years.

California’s June budget package settled a disagreement between the Brown administration and some lawmakers about how to allocate the money among schools and community colleges.

“This is a gargantuan victory for the state of California,” author Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, said in a press release. “We are creating thousands of jobs for the hard-hit construction industry, and we are greening California schools for improved student heath and performance.”

Money will be awarded to all school districts on a per-pupil basis, with additional money given to districts where more students receive free or reduced-price lunches.

The formula bodes well for schools in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, where there are more than 800,000 students, utilities are expensive, and large numbers of students receive free or reduced-price lunches. There are 26 school districts in which more than half of students receive lunch assistance in Riverside County, and 33 such districts in San Bernardino County.

The formula to allocate Prop. 39 money was a compromise between plans proposed by de León and other Democratic lawmakers and Brown.

In his January budget proposal, the Democratic governor called for spreading the money among all school districts. De León, though, introduced legislation to target Prop. 39 grants for low-income districts consuming more energy.

“The end result was not the program that we had written, but we’re confident that it will meet the needs of the state in a geographically balanced way,” Dan Reeves, de Leon’s chief of staff, said of the Prop. 39 budget bill. “In politics, you don’t get everything you want, but I think it’s a bargain that people will be happy with.”

Reeves said it makes sense to consider a district’s free-and-reduced price meal rates when allocating the Prop. 39 money. Poor communities are less able to pass local bond measures to improve deteriorating schools, he said.

Robert Frost, business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Riverside, whose members would likely receive jobs paid for by Prop. 39, said he is satisfied with the formula.

Frost said he had been concerned that distributing the money on a per-pupil basis would be unfair to smaller districts in need of modernization, such as the 4,755-student Perris Elementary School District. Under the new formula, Perris Elementary is expected to receive an estimated $300,000 annually for five years.


It’s been a dozen years since Riverside Unified School District passed a local school bond and that money has nearly dried up, Deputy Superintendent Michael Fine said.

Riverside Unified has 43,000 students, with 63 percent of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches. Fine estimates that the district spends about $5 million on electricity and $700,000 for gas annually.

The district would receive almost $2.4 million from Prop. 39 in the next year, according to estimates from de León’s office. Riverside Unified still is deciding where to spend its energy-saving money, Fine said.

“Several years ago, we started an energy survey project to identify all types of energy conservation-related projects, from replacing (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) units to lighting replacements,” Fine said. “Once that project is complete, then we would be identifying those low-hanging fruit – projects that can be done pretty quickly and easily – and start from there.”

Ted Rozzi, Assistant Superintendent of Facilities for the Corona-Norco Unified School District, said the district plans to spend the money in similar fashion – by attending to easy fixes first.

Rozzi said most of the money given to Corona-Norco Unified will be spent to replace old heating and air conditioning units. Two Corona-Norco bond measures are already tapped out, and the district is projected to receive more than $2.8 million in energy-saving money.

San Bernardino City Unified School District, the largest in San Bernardino County, is expected to receive more than $3 million in Prop. 39 grants. The district has been installing insulation, air-conditioning units and other energy-saving improvements in recent weeks.

It’s still unclear how many jobs will be created by Prop. 39 grants, but supporters say they are confident the measure will generate work for thousands.

Frost said the millions of dollars will create jobs for a lot of trades, especially those hardest hit by the recession – plasterers, glazers and roofers.

“Schools will need to replace the glass on windows and redo the insulation on the building and make the electrical portion energy efficient,” he said. “These projects will create a lot of jobs, and will also be creating jobs for quite a while.”

Cesar Diaz, the legislative director for the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, said that every billion dollars invested will translate into 18,000 to 25,000 construction jobs created.

Also, the California Conservation Corps will receive $5 million. And $3 million will finance a program that will prepare, “disadvantaged youth or veterans” for employment.

School districts will not be able to apply for Prop. 39 money until the California Energy Commission releases its draft application guidelines in the fall.

Comments are closed.