SBUSD Superintendent McNamara’s Column for September 2015
Sep 01, 2015 10:25AM
By Paul Spear
South Bay Union School Distract Superintendent McNamara’s Column for September 2015 - San Diego school districts are all feeling the heat from soaring electricity rates estimated to cost a combined $30 million more this year than last year.
Superintendent McNamara’s Column – September 2015
Dear Community Members,
As I’m sure you’ve heard on the news, and experienced on your own bills, we are all facing rate shock as a result of skyrocketing costs for electricity.
San Diego school districts are all feeling the heat from soaring electricity rates estimated to cost a combined $30 million more this year than last year. Current estimates indicate San Diego County school districts have experienced, on average, a 39% increase in electricity costs this year with approximately 33% attributable to rate increases. The South Bay Union School District has experienced rate shock as well. In the last 12 months, our district has experienced a 31.16% increase in electricity costs with approximately 27% attributable to rate increases. In a single year the district experienced a $382,229 increase in electricity costs, which was not only staggering, but unexpected and disappointing that these are dollars that could have been spent in classrooms.
School districts are charged “commercial customer” rates and, since we, unlike other businesses, cannot raise customer prices or limit usage to non-peak hours, school districts have no choice except to absorb the increased costs. This is particularly challenging when most school districts budgets are 85% personnel, leaving only 15% of the budget for everything else, such as electricity. As the state economy improves, school districts are getting increased dollars, however, electricity cost increases are consuming approximately 20% of the new money anticipated in 2014-2015. This is on top of legislated requirements for school districts to pay significant additional increased costs, for example, the employee retirement system.
The trend that we are experiencing is financially unsustainable and is impeding the ability of school districts to achieve the main goals established with the Local Control Funding Formula and the Local Control Accountability Plans: to increase or improve services for all students.
What can be done?
In February, officials from all 42 school districts in the County met with SDG&E executives to discuss the increases and their plan to fight the increases by appealing to state lawmakers and regulators with the California Public Utilities Commission.
In April, school districts were invited to join a coalition to file formal interveners in the current General Rate Case currently filed with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). The South Bay Union School District joined that coalition at their public meeting on May 7, 2015.
On August 13, 2015 Board members, superintendents, and assistant superintendents crowded the largest space at the San Diego County Office of Education to speak to Assemblywoman Shirley Weber.
School Districts have united with one voice with the objectives to:
1. Establish a protective cap for school districts and county offices of education limiting annual rate increases.
2. Create a “schools only” rate class (removing school districts from the “commercial class”).
Assemblywoman Weber was empathetic and concerned about this situation that has impacted San Diego County more than other counties in California. There is certainly concern on behalf of San Diego County schools now, and the trend is ominous for other counties that may find themselves in a similar situation in the near future.
Katie McNamara, Ed.D.