Loss from theft or vandalism could far outweigh budget savings by darkening campuses.
In light of potential state budget cuts, Hart District officials are proposing that high school campuses go dark near the midnight hour to save money, something sheriff’s deputies find a little counterproductive.
On a list of cuts proposed to accommodate an anticipated shortfall of state funding, the district will completely darken high school campuses from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., which would result in a savings of $228,000.
“The idea is to save as many costs as we can without jeopardizing our campuses,” said Rob Gapper, facilities manager for the district. “We don’t want to create an opportunity for theft and vandalism, but our findings are that not much happens between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.”
Gapper said that the average monthly electric bill for one campus is $53,000. He said the proposal to cut back on lighting was discussed with a school resource deputy who advised them that the later they darkened the campus, the better.
“He was a little nervous about the 10 p.m., so we might do it closer to midnight or 2 a.m.,” Gapper said.
The district plans to install security cameras on the campuses in August, but Gapper admitted that the lack of light would prove difficult in capturing any images.
“They’re not going to see much, that’s true,” he said.
Outside of consulting the resource deputy, the district did not ask for input from sheriff’s department crime prevention or administration. Neither Captain Anthony LaBerge, commander of the Santa Clarita station, or Deputy Pat Rissler, who works in crime prevention, knew of the proposed cutbacks.
“How much is that really going to save, when you do have a burglary and lose all your computers,” Rissler said. “You didn’t save a dime.”
The announcement from the school district came just two days before sheriff, fire and city officials launched the School Watch Program, where residents in the neighborhood of schools are asked to keep an eye on lighted elementary school campuses and report any suspicious activity. Future plans for the program include expanding it to junior high and high school campuses, according to Rissler.