America’s schools spend more than $7.5 billion annually on energy—more than they spend on textbooks and computers combined. Energy costs are the largest operating expense for school districts after salaries and benefits, and in recent years those costs have increasingly strained their budgets. The good news is that energy is one of the few expenses that can be decreased without negatively affecting classroom instruction. As energy has become a larger and less predictable expense, it is imperative that school districts invest in retrofits and ongoing maintenance to assert control over their utility costs. Yet school districts perpetually struggle to budget appropriately for operations, maintenance, and capital projects. High-dollar capital projects are the first to go when budgets are cut, and trimming maintenance expenditures is more palatable to school boards than cutting instructional staff. It’s also not unusual for school districts to build new schools or additions without making corresponding increases to maintenance spending and staff. The result is an accumulation of deferred maintenance, which leads to higher energy costs and more equipment malfunctions. Lack of preventive maintenance reduces the operational life of building equipment, hastening the need to invest in costly capital retrofits
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