Committee encourages schools to watch costs

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

Think leaner, think greener.

Those were some of the perspectives offered by the New Mexico Public School Facilities Authority at Monday’s meeting of Region V of the New Mexico School Board Association.

Superintendents and school board representatives from the 13 school districts in the region met at Clovis High School Freshman Academy. The meeting was the third of eight meetings — one for each region — held between March 15 and April 29 across the state.

The meeting was a quick review of changes made federally and through the 2010 state legislative session, with a “doing more with less” theme resonating.

“It’s going to take a lot of hard work from a lot of people to get through the school year,” Clovis Municipal Schools Board of Education President Mark Lansford said. “But I believe if we work together with board management and the public we can make it work.”

Representatives from the facilities authority stressed to the crowd that when it’s their turn to get building upgrades, planning should not focus on the upfront cost so much as the long-term maintenance costs.

“When we look at the cost of buildings,” Senior Facilities Manager Pat McMurray said, “that front end is about 20 percent of what you’ll spend over the next 30 years. The money you have to maintain them will compete with your operational budget.”

Specific examples included:

• Finding ways to lower the overall square footage of buildings. McMurray estimated maintenance costs of $5 to $7 per square foot can add up quickly on 12,000 square foot buildings.

He also noted that schools are often unwise to build classrooms with 16-foot ceilings because about half of heating and cooling expenses would go towards empty space.

• Joint use facilities. McMurray said schools can recoup building or operational costs by sharing costs with other groups on multipurpose facilities on the campus.

“Building the same building in a community two or three times makes no sense,” McMurray said.

• Energy-saving programs. McMurray said energy reduction could be as simple as a student reminding a teacher to turn off a computer at 3 p.m. Executive Director Robert Gorrell said such measures are “low-hanging fruit” for most districts.