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State officials discuss education audit

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - State education officials met Monday to discuss recommendations from a statewide education efficiency audit concerning the School Building Authority.

Authority Executive Director Mark Manchin met with state Board of Education President Wade Linger after the authority's morning meeting. Linger is also a member of the authority, and wanted to speak with Manchin while at his office.

"The more information I get, the more information we have to make the proper response," Linger said in a phone interview. "I just want us to have as much information as I can so that we're not shooting from the hip."

In January, Public Works LLC released an audit with more than 50 recommendations to make the state Department of Education more efficient while helping it save about $115 million over five years.

Eight of those recommendations reference the authority. One of those measures is the one that Public Works thinks could save the most money.

The audit suggests making the authority responsible for addressing increased energy efficiency in school buildings. Public Works examined energy efficiency efforts in Harrison County and noted "energy specialists" hired there helped the school system avoid a one-year energy cost of about $1.1 million.

If the same measures were taken at the state level, Public Works predicts $27 million could be saved over the course of five years.

"There's a lot of talk in the audit that there are a lot of ways to save money . . . using energy more efficiently," Linger said.

The authority already looks at energy efficiency when it builds new schools, Linger and Manchin said. The audit suggests it also look at energy-efficient upgrades in schools across the state, currently a role held by the state department of education.

The audit recommends the department's Office of Facilities move under the auspices of the authority because there is a duplication of duties between the agencies. Both Linger and Manchin said it's possible that overlap is occurring, and they talked about the situation during their meeting Monday.

Manchin said he doesn't know exactly what the facility office does, but his staff and the facilities personnel "often cross paths" on projects. He thought the possibility of moving the office under the authority warranted discussion.

Manchin said he would include more of his opinions about the audit in a letter he will send to Linger.

The board met in March at Stonewall Resort to discuss the audit. Although the board asked the department of education to compile its notes into a formal response, Linger said the document he received was "flavored" with the department's opinion.

Since then he has lobbied for and received a "school board liaison" to help with the audit response and serve as board assistant who is independent of the department of education.

Linger said Monday he can't predict what the board will include regarding the authority in its response to the audit. He said preparing the response is going well.

Earlier this month a legislative committee considering the audit said it expected to hear from the board during its monthly meeting in November. At the time Linger said he would be able to brief the legislators by that time but could not commit to having the formal response completed by then.

Contact writer Dave Boucher at 304-348-4843 or david.boucher@dailymail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/Dave_Boucher1.

 


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