The Pratt school district is looking outside its borders to achieve greater efficiency in some operations. The district spends $400,000 to $450,000 a year in energy costs and maintenance and repair of heating and air conditioning systems.

At Monday’s Board of Education meeting, a representative of Building Controls and Services, Inc., in Wichita gave a broad outline of a plan to reduce costs by 20 to 30 percent, paying for upgrades in four to six years.

The program presented by Chadd Currier called for “recommissioning,” not necessarily replacing heating and air conditioning equipment at Pratt High School and Southwest Elementary School and replacing the boiler system and window air conditioning units at the ACE (administrative and preschool) building .

Liberty Middle School was not included in the plan because heat pumps are already being installed. On Monday the board approved an expenditure of $47,698 for Integreen to complete the project this summer.

Building Control Systems would monitor expenses to see where the dollars are being spent, oversee maintenance, handling the more complicated jobs themselves and using local contractors for smaller jobs, and train USD 382 personnel to manage and maintain systems.

“In the first year, we handle repairs and train your staff,” Currier said. “Over a three-year period, your reliance on us decreases; we work ourselves out of a job.”

District-wide upgrades would come to $280,000 to $360,000 for energy and an additional $120,000 for fire protection, Currier projected. A three-year phased program would require the district to spend $100,000 to $120,000 per year.

Currier estimated that the district could cover the first year with energy savings, without having to increase the budget.

Another aspect of hiring an outside company is customer service, Superintendent Suzan Patton said.

“I want good customer service, a company that is attentive to our needs,” she said, explaining that in the last year she and other administrators contacted three companies who have systems at Pratt High and there was no follow-up.

Board members questioned the need for extensive upgrades at Pratt High, completed in the fall of 2008.

“Did we cut corners?” BOE President Bill Bergner asked.

Principal Steve Blankenship said that was not the case, but parts of the system have never worked the way they anticipated, without someone — often him or Assistant Principal Curtis Nightingale — monitoring and setting controls manually.

“There’s always one room not up and running properly,” Blankenship said.

Patton told board members the lengthy discussion was to keep them up to date on a process she and administrators have pursued for several months, and said if the board elects to continue, bid proposals would be sent to other companies, in addition to Building Control Systems.

She indicated that the district was financially in a position to make changes.

In a brief report, Patton told the board that two companies had requested bid proposals for management of the district’s food service program and had toured the facilities in Pratt. Bids are due May 9 and a company will be chosen in June. The school lunch portion of food service showed a net loss of $26,636 in March, while breakfasts gained $15,036.