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PCC Activist Takes Dim View of Energy Savings Plan in Light of Class Cuts

Published on Wednesday, March 14, 2012 | 5:00 pm

Pasadena City College student Andrew Bott, whose open letter last week drew a quick and lengthy reply from Geoffrey Baum, President of the Pasadena City College Board of Trustees, reacts to news that $2.4 million is being spent to retrofit the college with energy-efficient LED lighting.  See:  PCC Plans to Save Millions in Energy Costs

Special to Pasadena Now | An Opinion Piece by Andrew Bott
As a student of Pasadena City College and an environmental advocate, I am fighting for my campus, and the world, to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions and wasteful energy consumption before it is too late.

At the same time, I am trying to go to school. At the beginning of this semester 54 classes were cut, and many more merged, due to a last minute budget crisis. Forty-five teachers received notices of “early retirement,” one week before classes began. There is currently a teacher hiring-freeze, we have moved to hourly janitors instead of full-time employees, and there are serious discussions about cutting winter or summer session entirely.

Sharing my views on sustainability, the Pasadena City College shared-governance has made a big commitment to a green campus. Combined with the newly created student Sustainability VP position, there is also a shared-governance Sustainability Committee. The college has many projects in the pipeline, including final talks to obtain two free fuel cells– giving PCC a greener power grid while saving up to $250,000 a year. I am also very pleased that the PACCD Board of Trustees has taken actions for a more sustainable campus.

At the same time, that does not mean we will always agree. The problems began last year. In 2011, the PACCD Board of Trustees swept $3.9 million into capital outlay funds — meaning the funds would be designated for college infrastructure and could not be touched for anything else. This is a decision that is hard to stand behind because of the limitations it places in a crisis situation — like the one the Board finds itself in now. On October 5th of 2011, the Board approved a $2.4 million contract for a LED lighting retrofit, using… capital outlay funds, some funds from a bond-measure and a parking fund.

Over the past few months, Pasadena City College has been paying for this project. They are in the final stages. While they plan on receiving an $850,000 rebate from Pasadena Water and Power, which would again be used to replenish capital outlay funds, and saving money in maintenance and electrical costs, they are still paying a significant amount of money up front.

Unfortunately, this project is being implemented at a time when $2.4 million dollars could have saved all students from unnecessary class cuts this year, and 45 teachers from early retirement.

While I support a greener campus, students should come first and renovations second. A better time to retrofit buildings would be at the end of the school year, when there is always a budget surplus — that way, classes come first and necessary projects can be approved without worry of a mid-year budget-cut crisis, like the one we are experiencing now.

I hope that the PACCD Board of Trustees has more foresight in the future. After all, it is their job to oversee and manage funds so that the college can attend to its most important role; as an educational institution. I believe the Board has felt the sting of capital outlay funds and are planning on lowering the amount of money designated as such in the future. I hope they follow through and do not make the same mistake again.

Andrew Kane Bott
Pasadena City College Student

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