Del Mar school district looking at possible Prop 39 benefits

By Karen Billing

Del Mar Union School District (DMUSD) will see $171,165 in the 2013-14 school year from the passage of Prop 39, the Clean Energy Jobs Act.

The act, which was approved by voters in November 2012, provides $381 million to kindergarten through sixth grade public schools, county offices of education and charter schools this school year for energy-efficient projects and job creation.

The funding will be available for five years, but it is not known how much the district will receive from year to year. The allocation is based on average daily attendance and the number of students eligible for the free and reduced lunch program.

Cathy Birks, the district’s assistant superintendent of business services, said many steps go into the awarding of funding for projects. Some of the steps include the district providing 12 months of electrical and gas usage data by site, maximizing energy efficiency with sequencing of facilities improvements, and looking at cost-effectiveness to see if the benefit of the energy efficiency project is greater than the cost.

DMUSD has met with the California Conservation Corps (CCC) and submitted an application for energy opportunity survey, and has applied to the California Energy Commission’s Bright Schools program, a $20,000 grant for additional assistance. The district has also attended meetings with CleanTech San Diego and SDG&E as they await final approval of Prop 39 implementation guidelines.

“They want to see that schools in San Diego are reaping the benefit,” said Birks of the CCC and local groups.

Birks noted that the process for getting projects approved is so time consuming that it might make sense to submit one plan for the total five years.

DMUSD President Doug Rafner wondered about going solar at DMUSD campuses as it makes fiscal sense with the rise of energy costs, but he said the Prop 39 funds might not make a dent in installing solar at all eight sites.

Birks said that in the Prop 39 implementation there is some ability to do solar projects but the energy commission would like to see more energy-efficient efforts made first. In meeting with solar companies, Birks said that she doesn’t see it as cost effective to go in that direction right now.