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Perkiomen Valley School Board caught wasting tax dollars

Board members earn an "F" in fiscal management.

Monday night the Perkiomen Valley School Board took a step backwards.  As opposed to investigating other opportunities to save money on energy costs, despite advice, they took the easy way out.

The Board entertained and voted on only one single proposal.  As a policy they aren’t required to bid out professional services but with the budget crisis, they should’ve at least tried.  Slop and mismanagement.  Another "F" on their report cards.

Fair questions to the Board:

1.       Why hire an outside agency? This information should be available from our current controls company or Facilities.

2.       Why can Facilities not handle this?  Typically 95% of the recommendations are to replace lighting easily done by current Facilities staff at a great savings vs. contracted labor.  Add occupancy sensors which the current controls company can provide.  Survey existing pumps/motors, and replace with variable frequency drives easily handled by Facilities.  Survey building envelope and have Facilities caulk around windows, control joints, doorways, etc. 

3.       Why not request an energy audit from our utility supplier?  PECO does this for free - zero cost.

4.       How is the actual determination of savings quantified and what is the expected return?  If the payback period is longer than the actual life expectancy of the equipment – it’s a loser.  Why not take the time to study it?

Just weeks ago they discussed whether they could add an additional 2 hours a day for a Social Studies teacher at a cost of $7,500; today they awarded a contract for $7,500.00, plus a percentage of the cost of the overall construction contract without listening to other firms or shopping for a better number.  Board policy for paperclips, if over $4,000 requires at least 3 bids.  Other firms structure it where the costs of capital improvements are fronted by the firm, and paid back via actual energy savings.  While this does not reduce the actual monthly utility bills until the cost is recovered, it limits the District’s risk and frees up funds, capping actual utility cost for the duration of the payback.  

Section 704 of their policies manual that requires a yearly maintenance plan, also a 5 year plan directed to preventative maintenance - which apparently based on Monday night’s comments - is no longer followed. Too much like work.  Our District’s own high salaried personnel could have easily assessed energy savings and simply made these changes themselves.

Pottsgrove did it themselves, why didn’t we?  2.5% of $3.5M (assumed cost of replacing HVAC at South Elementary) is $87,500 – paid to a third party who will tell us what we already know. 

Area 4 Republican Committee persons like me were elected by taxpayers to endorse School Director candidates who would balance the educational needs of our children with sound fiscal management and act as taxpayer watchdogs.  This means doing the hard work of cost-cutting.  So far in 2012 we have watched this Board shoot down a proposal for a six-month employee wage freeze with no negotiation with the teacher’s union, and decided at a special meeting to use Act 1 exceptions to increase real estate taxes by 2.285% or 0.65 mills in the 2012-13 budget year.  Zero push-back against the union; just blithely increasing taxes without first attacking cost savings which could’ve prevented the increase.  They spent considerable tax dollars on performance management software, which if used would hold various department heads accountable to budgets and to seeking the best deals in all cases – but they don’t use the software because they can’t figure out how. 

Parents should remember this when some service or activity fee or cost of parking passes goes up.  Area 4 Republican leaders are putting Republican PVSD Board members on notice: Tighten it up.  Do the hard work you were elected to do and for which we endorsed you.  If you call yourselves Republicans to get elected by Republicans then you must start acting like it.

Jack Minster

Trappe Republican Committee

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Peter Moran October 13, 2012 at 04:21 PM
Thank you, On the part of board bringing in a consultant, I have to say I simply don't know enough, and in that that part in particular I don't deal with - I'm just trying to get them to work with an ESCO, and if they will only do it if they work with a consultant, then I am happy it will happen anyway. All I understood was that the board did not want to work with the ESCO themselves because they believed the district did not have enough people or time to deal with the whole process and that without someone skilled in working with ESCOs, the deal with the company may not be as beneficial. I think the board is just being cautious, and that they don't want to make an accidental mess out of working with the ESCO that could potentially make things worse in the future. I think from that point, the 2.5% cost for PHM may be worth the insurance it provides, especially since the money comes from the savings the project provides. Additionally, I believe the board trusts PHM because they recently helped with a project at Owen J. Roberts concerning ESCOs, though it was slightly different because they specifically wanted solar panels, which will likely not be in our project because their cost outweighs their returns than other improvements. However, we can always question if someone else could provide a lower cost or a better service, but I think that the members who went forward with the proposal just wanted to get what they had already.
Richard Bouher October 13, 2012 at 10:40 PM
You are correct, the ones that voted for just did not want to do the hard work. As far as the consultant goes, it is a waste of money. Do the research, and utilize others experience to get it right. By that I mean the other school districts in the area. I know that means additional "work", but that is thier jobs
Warren Jacobs October 16, 2012 at 01:18 PM
Delegating work to unqualified people because they work for cheap is not usually cost effective. This can be easily seen by visiting any of our PV schools and taking a quick glance at the condition of the landscapes. (for a relevant example)
Jack Minster October 16, 2012 at 01:30 PM
Firing unqualified expensive full-time employees and cautiously bidding to competitive outsource providers - is that your alternative proposal, Mr. Jacobs? If FTEs cannot caulk windows and doors also mow grass to your satisfaction, what then is your solution?
Warren Jacobs October 16, 2012 at 02:10 PM
That might possibly work. Cautious is a key word. When the focus is on "competitive" there can be a tendency to end up penny wise and pound foolish. Somewhere along the management chain it's important to have someone who knows what they are doing. Whether they are making and enforcing contract spec.s or directly managing marginally skilled workers.

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