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State Senate hearing held at Perkins K-8

Backers of a California state Senate bill that would help school districts upgrade facilities for energy efficiency held a hearing last week at Perkins K-8 School in Barrio Logan.

Testifying at Perkins
Board of Education Member Richard Barrera, second from left, testifies before Senate hearing. Also on panel were, from left: Stanley Dobbs, San Diego Unified Chief Financial Officer (partially hidden); Barrera; Sean Hulen, U.S. Green Building Council; Lee Dulgeroff, San Diego Unified Facilities, Planning and Construction Executive Director.

The bill, SB-39, would implement parts of 2012's Prop. 39, which closed corporate tax loopholes and specified that funds would be used for clean energy projects. The bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles).

Joining Senator De León on the dais were Senate Appropriations Committee member Ricardo Lara (D-Long Beach) and San Diego representatives Senator Marty Block; and Assembly members Toni Atkins and Shirley Weber. Panelists from education, labor, business and environmental organizations outlined pitfalls to avoid when spending the more than $2 billion in energy efficiency funds generated by the initiative.

“Hearing from experts and community members has been a great learning process about the needs of our communities,” said Senator De León. “I look forward to several more hearings we have planned around the state to seek input from stakeholders and to working on passing Senate Bill 39 so we can get Californians back to work, save energy and improve conditions for our schoolchildren.”

At the hearing, Stan Dobbs, Chief Financial Officer of the San Diego Unified School District, shared their total utilities cost for 2011-12 was $17.4 Million. The gas and electric service alone was $13 million. By retrofitting schools in the district, it is estimated the energy savings could be around 25 percent, generating an additional $3.25 million that could support teachers and efficient district operations that have been especially hard hit by cuts in recent years.

Also appearing at the hearing were Richard Barrera, San Diego Unified Board of Education Subdistrict D representative; and Lee Dulgeroff, executive director, Facilities, Planning and Construction. Barrera and Dulgeroff discussed bonds approved by voters in recent years, Prop. S in 2010 and Prop. Z in 2012.

Sen. deLeón's bill would target the most needy districts, however Barrera and Dulgeroff recommended that it also include provisions to help out districts such as San Diego Unified, who have received voter approval to raise taxes for improvements such as this.

Another witness, Mary Luévano with Global Green, cited its study, Healthier, Wealthier, Wiser: A Report on National Green Schools. The study, which included data from the United States Green Building Council, reports that green schools on average save $100,000 per year – enough to hire two new teachers, buy 500 new computers, or purchase 5,000 new textbooks. Researchers have also found that students in old buildings scored 5-7 percentage points lower than students in new buildings and that classroom noise, lighting and temperature improvements can lead to a 36-point increase in California Academic Performance Index scores.

Panelists included Barrera, Dobbs and Dulgeroff from the San Diego Unified School District; and Sean Hulen, United States Green Building Council Representative and Vice President, Balfour Beatty Construction, who focused on accountability mechanisms for school construction programs, current funding and programs, and the auditing process, oversight and accountability necessary for success. Jennifer Badgely, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 569; and Peter Miller, Senior Scientist, Natural Resources Defense Council focused on job creation and how we should measure fiscal outcomes and benefits.