May 17, 2012
Audit finds school districts missed out on $40 million in anticipated energy savings
SALEM – The audit found that school districts could have realized additional energy and utility cost savings by using energy surcharge funds more cost-effectively. Auditors also found that state law does not establish clear oversight of the funds and the funds are not allocated to districts in a way that prioritizes energy savings.
Auditors analyzed 6,859 measures identified in school energy audits from 2002 to 2010 and found that school districts did not consistently implement the most cost-effective measures or realize the greatest energy savings. The audit estimates that, had districts implemented the most cost effective measures, they could potentially have achieved about $40 million more in anticipated utility bill savings and 70% more energy savings over the collective lives of the measures.
“The $40 million in savings is spread across 111 districts over several years and projected into the future,” said Secretary of State Kate Brown. “I recognize the funding challenges facing districts, and that a school district might choose to replace a boiler so students weren’t faced with cold classrooms, even if that wasn’t the most energy efficient option. At the end of the day, however lower utility bills would mean more money available for the classroom.”
In interviews with school district business officials and building directors, auditors learned that districts include other factors beyond energy savings or cost-effectiveness when deciding how to utilize energy surcharge funds. Auditors also found that statutes do not clearly indicate that districts should consider cost-effectiveness when implementing measures and do not grant oversight authority to the Oregon Department of Energy or any other entity to ensure that measures school districts implement are cost-effective.
The report, including the agency response, can be found at www.sos.state.or.us/audits.
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