BOE looks to generate more funds

PHILIPPI – The Barbour County Board of Education is in search of ways to either save money or bring more money into the school system, officials said Monday.

Facilities Director Glen Sweet told the school board Monday about a service that could not only help them save money on the power bill for Philip Barbour High School, but actually generate about $45,000 in additional money for the school system.

“Our bottom line is we’re going to get some cash out of this to help us with the budget,” Sweet said.

Some power companies, particularly in winter and summer months, can experience a spike in electric uses, Sweet said. Rather than creating another power company to handle the excess usage that may be more than a company can supply, there is a program in place that rewards qualifying high-power users, like businesses and some schools, to participate in power-saving events.

For instance, a participating location could call upon a school, giving at least a two-hour notification, to shut down power to non-essential areas, like unused computers or rooms.

“Anytime we cut back on energy we’re going to save money ourselves,” Sweet said.

The program is completely free of any out-of-pocket expenses for Barbour County Schools and the services are available through EnerNOC, Inc., he said.

BOE members voted unanimously to enter into the Demand Response agreement with the company Monday.

“This might be one of the few cases that truly is a win-win situation,” Superintendent Dr. Joe Super said.

Philip Barbour High School was considered for the program, but many other county schools did not qualify because their energy usage through the summer was not high enough for the company to consider offering its services, Sweet said. The company would have to purchase monitoring equipment and software to help the schools analyze power usage over time and discover new ways to cut back and save.

The power reductions do not have to affect the students, officials said. If the school is called to reduce power when a theater performance or other event is going on, the school is not mandated to stop the event for the power shutdown.

Participation will not harm essential operations, officials said. The food storage freezers will maintain their required temperatures, and teachers who are working on a computer, or students in a computer lab, will be able to continue working. Super said it would not necessarily be the shutdown of an entire breaker system, but could simply be shutting off lights and electronics where they are not essential.

The cost savings don’t end with energy-saving opportunities. Barbour County Schools will review its budget spending and find even more ways to reduce costs, Super said.

“We are cutting things out of the budget that could change the way we operate,” Super said, adding that rollover funds from this school year’s budget might simply fill in gaps in next year’s.

Without detailing the specifics, Super said the Board of Education may face some difficult decisions in the budget-making process.

In other business, the Barbour BOE will consider the purchase of an online employment application program that is frequently backed up via Cloud services, costing $2,190 yearly and reducing the amount of paperwork for administrative employees in order to increase productivity. The item will come up for consideration at a later meeting.

Super also thanked the BOE staff that frequently attends the board meetings to provide information or simply be available to answer questions. Those employees also attend other staff meetings for the same reasons.

“They make my job so much easier,” Super said. “I know I’m going gray, but it’s not because of them. You need to realize just how fortunate we are to have that kind of knowledge in this system… Believe me, when we go into staff meetings, the wealth of knowledge that is always there is just greatly, greatly appreciated.”