The Joint Committee on Legislative Management seemed to pay too much for electricity and sacrificed savings in its management of the Old State House, an audit released Wednesday found.   

The Joint Committee on Legislative Management is the entity responsible for the legislature’s finances as well as the upkeep of some properties like the state Capitol, Legislative Office Building, and the Old State House.

The audit, conducted between the fiscal years ending on June 30, 2010 and 2011, found that the committee could likely save $265,542 annually if it renegotiated its electricity contract. During the two-year period assessed by the Auditors of Public Accounts, legislative management was in a four-year contract paying $.1197 per kilowatt hour. Auditors recommended renegotiating the contract at the current lowest rate of $.0779 per kilowatt hour.

In its response the committee acknowledged they’re paying a higher rate than what’s currently available, but said at the time the rate was negotiated, it was a competitive contract.
“We have gone to great efforts to reduce our level of electrical energy consumption,” the committee said.

Over the past four years, the committee said it’s reduced energy consumption by 16 percent in the Legislative Office Building, 23 percent in the state Capitol, 32 percent in the legislative garage, and 10 percent at the Old State House.
“Once our contract expires in a little over a year, we may consider using the legislature’s own purchasing authority to obtain electricity directly from suppliers and for a shorter term contract,” the committee said.
Auditors also had some recommendations for improving how it runs the Old State House. The General Assembly began leasing the Old State House from the city of Hartford in 2007, when it was in danger of closing. Since then it’s fallen to the Joint Committee on Legislative Management to run the building.

While the auditors said the management committee effectively preserved the building dating back to 1796, they suggested it could be run in a more cost-effective way. The building’s expenses exceeded its revenues by $760,705 last year and $911,789 the year before, auditors found. They estimated that, as of last year, each visitor to the building cost the state about $84.
Most of the expenses associated with the Old State House come from the vendor contracted to run tours and educational programing. Last year vendor services alone cost the state $468,226, whereas the building’s total revenue was just $110,424.

Nearly half the revenue generated by the building came from renting space but about $36,000 was from admission fees charged to visitors. The auditors suggested doing away with the admission fees altogether because the cost of collecting them seems to outweigh the revenue they generate. The state paid $41,500 a year for someone to collect admission fees, auditors noted.

In its response the committee said the employee collecting fees has other responsibilities.

“The person who collects admission also functions as greeter, sets up guided tours, and provides tourist information,” they said.

Auditors also suggest the state reconsider minimum staffing requirements included in the vendor’s contract. They also suggested replacing the vendors with state employees.
“Consider whether hiring employees would be less expensive than the outsourcing of seven full-time positions and two part-time positions at a cost of $35,000 per month,” the auditors wrote. “The vendor is operating with a healthy cushion of reserves, funded mostly with state resources.”

The committee agreed that it might make sense to study whether it would be cheaper to staff the Old State House with legislative employees.