A day after Earth Day, Santa Barbara Unified voted 3-2 to move forward in creating a new position to focus on energy efficiency, sustainability, and conservation. Boardmembers Laura Capps, Jaqueline Reid, and Kate Ford all voted to direct staff to draft a position they think would help move the district toward more sustainable models of energy consumption. The new position is a “win-win-win,” said Capps. “It would be a win for the environment, it’d be a win for our kids … and it would clearly be a win for the cost-saving of this district.”
Board President Wendy Sims Moten and Boardmember Rose Muñoz voted against moving forward. “I’m in support of it, but … is this the time to do it when this is the busiest time of the year?” said Moten. “I want to be mindful and caution us to make sure that we have the capacity to do what we need to do.”
The idea for the position came out of the sustainability subcommittee, made up of teachers, parents, and students, said Capps, who brought the idea to the board. Neighboring districts, such as Oxnard Unified and Monterey Peninsula district, offer similar positions. Oxnard transitioned into solar and introduced other technologies eight years ago that have saved about $500,000 a year, said Capps. Monterey Peninsula Unified created a similar position in 2012, and they claim they’ve saved $4.3 million thanks to the position.
S.B. Unified was awarded $2.7 million through the California Clean Energy Jobs Act. Some of the funding has been used to replace lighting, and unused funds are being considered to help move the district toward solar panels. Still, opportunities for energy efficiency remain. “Our utility bills vary widely from campus to campus,” said Capps. One elementary school had a water bill of $4,000 in October 2016; the following October, the bill was $13,000. “Kind of a head scratcher,” said Capps. In contrast, another elementary school uses reclaimed water, and its monthly bills are under $800, Capps said.