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GCC's energy efforts pay off

Measures have helped the college cut slightly into large deficit.

June 16, 2010|By Max Zimbert

NORTHEAST GLENDALE — Energy-conservation efforts at Glendale Community College have saved $200,000, putting a dent in its $4.5-million deficit this upcoming school year, officials said.

The $200,000 saved means fewer concessions facing employee groups as they brace for what's likely to be another year of givebacks, college Controller Ron Nakasone said.

"We're going back to the unions and employee groups to take pay cuts, and we're cutting the budget next year, so this saves us $200,000 of cuts," he said. "In the years past, we would augment the utility budget. This is one of the years, for a while now, that we're actually reducing the budget for utilities."

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The savings were projected for the entire year compared with the same period two years ago, which is considered the high point for energy expenses.

With state cuts to higher-education spending and rising utility, salary and health-benefit costs, college officials estimate a $4.5-million deficit this upcoming school year.

Conserving energy is one of the best ways to stave off further cuts, faculty union President Ramona Barrio-Sotillo said in an e-mail.

"We are especially in support of any existing programs that will allow us to not only conserve energy for the college and overall, but also because it allows the college to save money that can go into other important areas that impact students and staff," she said. "This is the best thing we can do overall."

Through a mix of employee concessions and reserve spending, the college balanced its budget this year. The faculty union contributed a 1% pay cut after part-time instructors, who make up the majority of teaching staff, took a 3.5% pay cut in 2008-09. The union of administrative assistants, custodians and other noninstructional positions agreed to take two unpaid furlough days this year.

That constructive partnership continues, Supt./President Dawn Lindsay said in an e-mail.

"Campus constituents continue to demonstrate our desire to work together for the benefit of our students," she said.

The college used bond money to consolidate air-conditioning units, which contributed to reduced energy costs. Also paying dividends are new vending machines that shut down when sensors indicate there is no activity nearby.

"That's something that's a little bit unique," Nakasone said.

With the sensors installed, energy powering the machines is reduced by 46%, and can generate about $150 in savings, per machine, said city officials who provided the sensors, called Vending Miser.

But it also means less revenue for Glendale Water & Power, which provides the sensors. Electricity rate increases could also come in the future, eating away at the savings.

Saving energy comes through more strategic use, but also through new software that monitors energy rates and targets the peak of consumption, Nakasone said.

The college's yearlong energy rates are calculated using the peak of consumption, and if the college community can lower that number, its savings are multiplied through a lower rate.

"If you can minimize that highest charge, it minimizes the rest of your year," Nakasone said. "Everybody's trying to get more green. It's the right thing to do."

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