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District OKs energy contract

By: Lauren Gibbs, The Placer Herald
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With possible layoffs looming for Rocklin Unified teachers and staff, trustees approved an energy-savings contract that has the potential of saving the district approximately $547,000 the first year. During last Wednesday’s school board meeting, trustees not only approved a five-year contract with Energy Education, Inc., but also looked at ways to cut the district’s spending next year. The district faces potentially $2 million in cuts if the state’s tax extension is not extended. With the approaching March 15 deadline for issuing preliminary pink slips to certificated staff, which includes teachers, trustees looked at increasing class sizes, reducing counseling positions and other cost-slashing options. Trustees are also hopeful that the contract with Energy Education, Inc. will bring dollars back to the general fund in the upcoming months and years. “We look forward to saving lots of money and jobs of teachers,” said Larry Stark, Rocklin Unified assistant superintendent of facilities and operations. The contract was approved with a 4-1 vote, Trustee Wendy Lang was the only opposing vote. Lang asked if trustees would consider bringing the contract back for approval at an upcoming meeting to give staff more time to implement other energy-saving ideas. Trustee Todd Lowell said he was satisfied with staff efforts but it would not amount to the savings the company can offer. “The scope of savings we’re looking at is in the magnitude of hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Lowell said. The Energy Education contract guarantees the district will incur no out-of-pocket expenses – if the districts’ costs of the software and energy specialists’ salary amount to more than the energy savings, the company will pay for the difference, according to Stark. “They get paid only out of savings,” Stark said. According to the contract, if at the end of the first quarter there is actual savings on the district’s end, the district will pay Energy Education 35 percent of that verified savings. Currently, the district pays approximately $2.5 million annually for energy costs. Trustees also discussed the possibility of larger class sizes, less teachers and cuts to programs for the 2011-12 school year. The scenario depends on Governor Jerry Brown’s state budget. Until then, Rocklin Unified must meet the March 15 deadline to have preliminary pink slips issued to teachers on or before that date. The next school board meeting, which will be held Monday, March 7, will allow staff more time to put a contingency plan in place. Trustees are considering increasing the class-size ratio at the high school level by one to 35 to one and increasing kindergarten through third-grade classes by two students to 28 to one. Trustees will finalize a contingency plan for cuts and layoffs during the March 7 meeting. “Hopefully we don’t have to execute this plan,” Lowell said. “We’re parents, we have students in these classrooms, we know the teachers.” Trustees to finalize preliminary layoff notices When: 7 p.m. Monday, March 7 Where: Rocklin Unified School District office, 2615 Sierra Meadows Drive, Rocklin