How U.S. Schools Can Overcome Budget Shortfalls in 2021

February 3, 2021

Every budget season presents a challenge for district leaders, but this upcoming 2021-2022 school year might be tougher than most. Over the past 11 months, schools across the country were forced to rapidly respond to the unforeseen challenges and shifting priorities created by the COVID pandemic.

For many, this also upended carefully laid financial plans and already stretched budgets. CARES funding became available but has since been exhausted, and the new CRRS funding package provides relief but may not cover the gaps that are widening with every passing day.

After speaking with school leaders nationwide, we found many were facing a similar – and growing – set of financial challenges: 

Existing Challenges

  • Aging facilities and equipment leads to a pile-up of deferred maintenance
  • Desire to modernize and invest in best in class learning
  • Need to reduce risk, create secure budgets, and streamline operations

New Challenges

  • Sharp decline in public school enrollment, potentially impacting funding
  • Rising costs of creating healthy indoor environments
  • State and local municipalities are facing shortfalls of their own and unable to fill the gap

Overlaid with these pressures is the ever-present need to modernize schools and/or tackle deferred maintenance. Understandably, many short- and long-term projects to improve facilities and infrastructure were put on hold. The conversation about the new STEM lab became how to improve air quality; the plan for upgraded athletic facilities into upgraded technology for remote learning.

Before eliminating plans for much-needed critical infrastructure improvements, explore alternative funding opportunities. There is a pathway to addressing both old and new challenges while creating stability in the budget.


Webinar: Learn about how a tried and true budget protection model, energy performance contracting, can help school leaders unlock revenue streams already in their budget, create stability and keep budget cuts out of the classroom. You’ll hear directly from a Superintendent who made major improvements, without a bond.

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How districts improved infrastructure and student engagement through energy savings performance contracting:

Blount County Schools overhauled infrastructure and found $14.6 million in savings

Blount County Schools, Alabama, had ambitious goals: to modernize every facility spread across 651 square miles for brighter, safer and healthier learning environments. However, the challenge of maintaining their aging, distanced facilities siphoned the budget necessary for modernization into increasing maintenance and utility costs.

Administrators decided to implement a comprehensive ESPC that modernized infrastructure from the inside out, with major upgrades to telecommunication systems, building automation, exterior envelope, interior and exterior lighting, outdated plumbing and broken HVAC components. Blount County Schools went from over-spending on infrastructure to saving $14.6 million in energy and operational efficiencies.

These upgrades completely transformed operational and budgetary priorities, allowing for the implementation of an advanced STEM learning experience.

See the STEM program in action:

In addition to the facilities improvements, the project will make a significant environmental impact by removing nearly 6,000 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere.

Stockton Unified School District turned Prop 39 funding into a springboard

Stockton USD, California, began its journey to becoming a high-performing, net-zero school district with Prop 39 legislation. With 40,000 students across 53 schools, they needed a plan to maximize this new funding opportunity and make impactful changes across a sprawling, urban district. Watch the video below to see how Schneider Electric helped to optimize their $6.3 million project:

Since implementing its Prop 39 measures, Stockton USD has continued its sustainability and modernization initiatives. In 2019, they brought solar energy battery storage to two of their high schools—applying rebates to cover the cost—and boosted their solar array benefits to help offset peak energy costs. Stockton continues to lead the way in sustainability for all California districts, and are currently working on an electrified transit center with Schneider Electric.

We’re the number one ranked ESCO nationwide and we’ve partnered with hundreds of school districts across the country to implement engineered solutions that save energy, modernize facilities and save money.

Check out the recording of our recent webinar: No bond. No problem! Discover new revenue streams to invest in your K12 facilities. Access today!

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