As school districts seek ways to reduce expenses, some administrators have turned to experts to find utilities cost savings.
Over 500 school districts and local governments across the nation, including several in Arizona, have used Cost Control Associates, Inc. to help them find ways to save on their costs for telecommunications, cellular, utilities and waste removal, said Lisa Miller, marketing and communications manager for the Queensbury, N.Y., company.
“Regulated utility companies offer many choices. Our analysts understand the rates and tariffs for every state and work with you to determine the optimal choice for your organization,” said Keith Laake, president of Cost Control Associates, Inc.
“Because of the complexity of utility billing structures, errors can go undetected for years,” Laake said. “We use our expertise to find those errors and get the best rate for your organization.”
In Arizona, Gilbert Public Schools sought out Cost Control Associates’ help to find ways to save on energy, waste/sewer and telecommunications costs for their 41-school district.
Cost Control Associates’ Cost Recovery and Reduction service helped the district that serves 39,000 students identify overcharges, collect refunds, implement cost savings through rate reductions and confirm that all bills were correct.
The Cost Control Associates experts helped Gilbert Public Schools receive $10,000 in telecommunication refunds and save more than $23,000 annually on those services, identified $6,500 in annual energy savings, and found that water and sewer services charges were correct.
“We were impressed with the fact that Cost Control Associates’ efforts produced refunds and annual savings of over $40,000, but the greatest value is that we now know we have been accurately billed by the utility and telecom companies,” said Clyde Dangerfield, former assistant superintendent of Gilbert Public Schools.
When Chandler Unified School District’s Chief Financial Officer Joel Wirth heard about how much Gilbert Public Schools saved, he hired Cost Control Associates to analyze his district’s energy, cellular and telecommunications costs.
After analyzing utility bills, supplier agreements and related contracts, Cost Control Associates’ energy and telecom experts found refunds, cost savings, opportunities for rate adjustments, identified billing errors and helped the district determine which services were needed.
“The analysis was well worth any effort on our part,” Wirth said. “School districts are stretched pretty thin these days, and we were delighted when Cost Control Associates found significant opportunities for refunds and savings.”
Cost Control Associates’ experts were easy to work with and provided excellent service, Wirth said.
Many organizations rely on their purchasing departments or other units to manage utility costs in addition to their other duties, Laake said.
“As diligent as your employees are, they are probably not utility experts,” Laake said. “We do this kind of work day in and day out, and we know what to look for. Our experts have the industry knowledge to push harder to get answers from utility vendors, and in the end, that pays off with savings for our customers.”
Laake said Cost Control Associates has experience in retail, banking, technology, healthcare and many other industries.
“Our innovative services and customer attentiveness make us a top choice for clients who are seeking a best-in-class solution,” Laake said. “The average tenure of our analysts is 13 years, and our customers benefit by that depth of industry experience and commitment.”
There are no up-front fees for Cost Control Associates to perform these services, instead a client pays a contingency fee if errors are found, Miller said.
“There’s really nothing to lose and everything to gain,” Miller said. “If we don’t find errors, they don’t pay. But if we do find errors, the contract will specify that you pay a certain percentage of what we find for a certain period of time.”
The school district lets the team know their priorities, provides the team with their invoices and other useful information, Miller said.
“We’ll talk to you and ask ‘Is your school open in the summer? Do you use it at night?’ which might put you in different rate brackets,” Miller said.
After their analysis, the team will present the school with a list of their findings, and the school will decide what they want the team to pursue, Miller said.
“We take care of everything with their permission, we talk to the providers and call them back to make sure the checks were cut and the refunds were sent,” Miller said.
Cost Control Associates has also helped cities and towns find ways to reduce their expenses.
The Cost Control Team’s review of past invoices for billing errors or overpayments that might results in refunds, rebates or better rates led to more than $50,000 in refunds and savings and $46,000 annual savings for future years, mostly from cellular and telecommunications.
The review also helped the City of Tempe establish benchmarks to ease budgeting in the future and help them monitor costs.
The City of Tempe noted that city employees time involvement was minimal, the review was through and the results were worthwhile.
Because Cost Control Associates is a small company, clients work with a dedicated person who gets to know them and their district or city, Miller said.
“Other companies have services like ours, but a lot of them use automated ways of checking, where we use automated and manpower on top of it,” Miller said. “We generally find more errors than other companies do.”