Colleges look to save space, energy and money

A 2006 budget model changed the way costs are assigned at the U.

As colleges and departments at the University of Minnesota are being forced to trim their budgets, a plan thatâÄôs been in place for years could help. In July 2006, the University implemented a new budget model that encouraged colleges to reduce their energy consumption and use space efficiently. That model changed the way costs were assigned at the University. In the old model, the University as a whole would pay for utilities. Starting in 2007, utility costs and general housekeeping costs became the responsibility of individual colleges and departments, said Julie Tonneson, a budget director in the Office of Budget and Finance. This made it important for colleges to use space and energy efficiently, because they were able to keep the money they saved from their budgets. Under the current model, if a college occupies an entire building, and it starts a program where it makes sure all of the computers and lights are off at the end of the day, the college gets to keep those savings, Tonneson said. Other than conserving energy, colleges and departments can save money by giving space back to the University. Colleges arenâÄôt exactly charged rent for the space they use, but they are charged for the maintenance costs of their buildings, like janitorial services, and land care. Colleges have no direct control over these costs, but if they give up part of their building, they can reduce them, said Ray Voelker, the director of Space Management at the University. The College of Education and Human Development , and the Office of Information Technology are currently going through the process of returning space to the University, he said. The CEHD is planning to turn over parts of Appleby Hall and rooms in the Vocational-Technical Education building . The IT office is looking to return space in Coffey Hall and the Eddy Hall annex . Colleges and departments are only allowed to return space to the University if it is useable and someone wants it. They canâÄôt reduce costs by returning unused closets and rooms that are âÄúlandlockedâÄù by the rest of their department, Voelker said. The concept of conserving space and energy has already saved colleges money. In 2007, the first year of the new model, the University charged colleges $5 million less than had been expected based on a model of previous yearsâÄô consumption, said Brad Hoff, the chief administrative officer for Facilities Management at the University. The total energy bill for all colleges at the University was about $90 million in the fiscal year of 2007. But other factors, like well-timed energy purchases and an unusually mild winter also played a role in the cost savings, Hoff said, and colleges saved less in 2008 than they did in 2007. In the old model, colleges would keep as much space as they could get, even if they werenâÄôt using it. They did this under the assumption that they might need the space in the future and might never have the opportunity to expand, Voelker said. With the current budget pressure colleges and departments donâÄôt have that luxury, Voelker said.