Dubuque Community School District will partner with a company that could save it more than $1 million in utility costs in the coming years.

School board members on Monday approved a five-year contract with Cenergistic to build a customized energy conservation program. Company officials estimate they could save the district $1.4 million over the term of their contract.

“We’re definitely, clearly interested in trying to save costs of utilities,” said Kevin Kelleher, the district’s executive director of finance and business services. “In this time of low financing, every nickel counts.”

Board Member Mike Donohue was not present at the meeting.

Cenergistic will help the district with price management, energy-efficiency upgrades and improved conservation practices in an effort to cut down utility bills.

Doug Bilyeu, a regional vice president for the company, explained Cenergistic’s model during a recent meeting of the school board’s facilities/support services committee.

He said staff members look for areas of energy waste during times when district buildings are not occupied and look for other ways to improve efficiency. Cenergistic will provide an energy specialist to be embedded in the district to work with staff.

Cenergistic’s services will cost the district about $20,000 per month in the first year. However, the business guarantees its efforts will save the district at least that much in energy costs. If not, the district will receive a check for the difference.

Cenergistic officials estimate the district’s net savings in the first year at $182,000, with savings increasing each year. While that is a small amount of the district’s approximately $130 million annual general fund budget, it still makes a difference, Kelleher said.

“It would equate to three new teachers or being able to buy different curricula, new curricula a little quicker,” he said. “It all depends on the needs of the district.”

Board members also approved legislative priority recommendations for the Iowa Association of School Boards. Members picked three priorities from a list of options from IASB and submitted an additional priority of their own.

The district-submitted priority requests that Iowa’s school-funding formula recognize needs of “students from low-income or non-English speaking families or at risk of dropping out.”

Superintendent Stan Rheingans said officials would like to see districts receive additional funding to help students who have a higher level of need.

“It would really help all students but allow us to focus particularly on the students who have some opportunity gaps in their experience,” he said.

The other priorities support:

  • an increase in funding for the statewide voluntary preschool program
  • establishing community mental health systems that allow for comprehensive school programs
  • full funding of area education agencies.
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