On Thursday of last week, District 211 posted up on its website a document entitled District 211 – Illinois Energy Consortium Update.

For the first time, the administrators of District 211 attempt to compare the district’s supposed energy savings not against ComEd off-the-shelf rates but against what another school district is paying–a school district that did obtain bids from a number of competitors before signing a contract with Mid-American, one of the IEC’s competitors. (Let me take a minute to remind you that when I first contacted the IEC two weeks ago, it denied that it had any competitors.)

According to a chart at the end of the article, District 211 is paying more per KWH than does District 15.

In other words, the Illinois Energy Consortium is charging District 211 more per KWH than Mid-American charges District 15 per KWH.

As the chart shows, if we assume for the sake of comparison that both districts used exactly the same amount of electricity each year, the lower rate that District 15 is paying would mean that District 15 would pay $52,000 (in round figures) less than District 211 over the course of a year.

Then, whoever at District 211 came up with this document goes on to tell us that over a 17-month period, District 15, with the lower rates it is paying, saved $74,000 on electricity versus what District 211 paid (hypothetically, assuming identical rates of electrical consumption).

Now, most people, reading this, would think:

Thank you for finally admitting that we are paying more for electricity under the contract with the IEC than we’d be paying if the honchos at District 211 had gone out and compared rates and gotten bids from the IEC’s competitors.

But the honchos at District 211 don’t want to admit that, and here’s where the document descends into self-parody.

The next line in the chart says:

District 211 – IEC Savings – 8/2006 — 12/2006: $133,000.

This “savings” of $133,000 is then subtracted from the $74,000 that District 15 paid for electricity under the better terms it has from Mid-American, resulting in the final claim that compared to District 15, District 211 actually came out $59,000 ahead.

Remind me where that $133,000 figure came from? That $133,000 is what District 211 saved in the last four months of 2006 on its contract with the IEC versus what it would have paid during that time if it had continued to buy electricity from ComEd at off-the-shelf rates.

In other words, the $133,000 figure is meaningless if what you’re trying to do is figure out whether District 211 paid more by being in a contract with the IEC than it would have paid, if it had put its electricity use out for competitive bidding, as the current lawsuit against it alleges that it failed to do.

The fact is, we will never know how much District 211 could have saved on its electricity starting in May 2006 if it had put out a request for bids and received and reviewed electricity bids from a number of competitors. 

District 15 did go through such a process, and it is paying less per KWH than we are paying in District 211.  (Note:  Superintendent Roger Thornton claimed in Mario Bartoletti’s article last week that the District did get three bids.)

Nevertheless, the fact that District 211 would have paid ComEd $133,000 more than it paid the Illinois Energy Consortium in the last four months of 2006 is completely irrelevant in trying to figure out whether District 211 paid more for its electricity than it needed to from May 2006 on, had it obtained the competitive bids the lawsuit alleges it failed to obtain, and that District 15 successfully did obtain.

Which is why District 15 is paying less per KWH of electricty than we are.

 An updated afterthought:  How much has District 211 paid the attorneys who are defending it in the lawsuit? 

The title to this blog post suggests that the situation has become vaguely comic.  I apologize for that.  The fact is, every dollar in the District that is wasted is a dollar that could have gone into making a kid’s life better.  When we spend more money than we need to on basic necessities like electricity, that’s money that could have gone into the classroom.  That’s money we’ll never see again. 

It is disturbing to the parents and taxpayers of this area to consider the possibility that district administrators and the school board are not using the smartest, most appropriate ways to make sure we don’t pay more than we need to be paying.

 It is even more disturbing when, on top of that, they spend even more money on attorneys to defend the original decision and refuse to admit that just possibly they might have made a mistake.  

It makes you wonder if there are other areas in the administration where this arrogant attitude is at work.