School district finds ways to save money as funding drops

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By Thomas Barr

 SHEPHERDSVILLE — If funding continues to fall for education, officials must find other ways to generate revenue.

In Bullitt County, a pair of unlikely sources have returned thousands of dollars to the coffers.

One is an on-going savings while another is present only when the opportunity arises.

Kimberly Joseph, the district’s energy coordinator, said that in the past year, conservation measures, as well as steps taken to improve efficiency, saved Bullitt County taxpayers nearly $500,000 in utility costs.

Giving her first annual report to the Bullitt County Public School Board, Joseph said that since the district became one of the leaders in the state in 2006, over $1.7 million has been saved.

Part of the savings comes from a performance contract with Harshaw Trane, in which $11.3 million of improvements were made to make facilities more energy efficient.

This included new windows and better lighting in each school.

Another part of the savings comes from a switch from propane at one facility.

Savings have also been realized through the hard work of staff in each building to change habits. 

As a result of the combined efforts, Joseph said that at 21 percent savings in electricity from July 2011 through June 2012 resulted in savings of $300,000. Another $114,000 was saved in a decrease in natural gas use. And the elimination of propane resulted in another $4,000 savings.

She said the energy measures has allowed the district to use less electric today with 1.9 million square feet of space than it did in 2004-05 with 1.3 million square feet of space.

There are currently 13 of the schools classified as Energy Star efficient. There are student-driven teams at 14 schools who work with conserving energy, said Joseph.

More importantly, superintendent Keith Davis said the learning environment in the classrooms is so much better. He said the better lighting has been a key to making a better learning situation for students.

Sammy Allen said he remembered when he and fellow board member Gary Wooldridge were asked to consider the performance contract work and the amount of investment to be made. He said Harshaw Trane has made good on all its promises to improve the schools and to save energy costs.

Another way the district has saved money over the past years has been refinancing bond issues when better rates are available.

Glenn Breshear provided the board with the opportunity to save over $1 million.

The 2004 bond issue for $30 million was done to allow the construction of two Zoneton and Eastside Middle schools, renovations on Old Mill Elementary and additions to North Bullitt and Bullitt Central High Schools.

If nothing adverse affects the bond market, a sale on Nov. 29 would allow the district to refinance that debt into a $24 million bond issue.

The lower interest rates and lower amount to finance could allow the district to save $1 million.

The board unanimously approved moving forward with the bond sale.