GDOE power bill: Over $1 million a month

GDOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez supports Bill 196-35, which would allow GDOE to seek alternative sources of energy at a discounted rate.

The Guam Department of Education has a power bill of approximately $13 million per year, or over $1 million each month, to supply power to all 41 schools as well as the GDOE central office facilities in Tiyan.

These figures are included in GDOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez’s written testimony supporting Bill 196-35, which would allow GDOE to seek alternative sources of energy at a discounted rate.

Bill 196-35 would provide GDOE with the authority to enter into power purchase agreements with qualified vendors to supply solar energy to GDOE schools and other facilities. The legislation, fully implemented, would allow GDOE to save an estimated $4 to $5 million per year in utility costs.

“In past years, we have worked on addressing our demand for power by attempting to conserve energy and reduce consumption, but what we have found is, as we see consumption reduce, power rates continue to adjust upwards, leaving us no better off than before,” Fernandez said in his testimony

Fernandez is requesting request that the Legislature not only authorize GDOE to realize energy savings through Bill 196-35 but also set aside the savings from the bill to go towards school facility improvements. This would require language to ensure that any projected or actual savings be deposited in a newly established GDOE Facility Improvement Fund that would be reserved for GDOE facility repair and renovation projects.

“We would also ask that there be language authorizing GDOE to obtain financing based on a pledge of revenues from the GOQE Facility Improvement Fund, which we estimate could yield upwards of S50 million if leveraged effectively over a period of time,” the Superintendent said.

A dedicated source of funds for facilities would be a “game-changer,” Fernandez said, in terms of addressing GDOE’s ongoing facility needs. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued its finding in 2013 that GDOE had about S90 million in deferred maintenance that needed to be addressed.

Unfortunately, Fernandez pointed out that the government of Guam has not had the ability to borrow the funds needed to invest in school facilities, leaving GDOE to deal with major capital projects using only its yearly operating budget.

With a dedicated source of funding, one that comes from reducing spending as opposed to raising taxes or fees, Fernandez said the Guam Legislature can finally provide GDOE with a long-term solution to help repair and improve school facilities across the island.