Trimble Local Schools Moves Forward On Energy-efficiency Project

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Trimble Local School Board members voted to move forward with a bond to pay for energy-efficiency projects in both school buildings, but because of increasing interest rates the district treasurer will continue exploring other payment options.

As previously reported, the school board approved an energy-efficiency project that is estimated to generate over $22,000 in savings every year. The project was expected to be paid for through the Ohio School Facilities Commission Energy Conservation Program, also known as House Bill 264, which allows districts to make energy efficiency improvements to their buildings and use the cost savings to pay for those improvements.

The limited borrowing opportunity, states the facilities commission, gives districts the ability to save on utility bills and operating costs at no additional taxpayer expense. The school district would issue bonds through the commission to pay for the $291,615 project. The district is expecting to pay back the bond, with interest, over 15 years with the $22,221 in annual estimated energy savings.

That proposal, however, was based on a 2 percent interest rate. Since the initial proposal was created, interest rates have doubled, according to Treasurer Cindy Rhonemus. “Patty redid the cash flow analysis with the new interest rate, and we found that we couldn’t come up with the (needed) savings,” Rhonemus said at Tuesday’s school board meeting. Patty Spangler of Sabo/Limbach Energy Services helped the district create the proposal to the facilities commission.

Under the new interest rate, the district would be paying $1,335 annually — that’s an extra $20,028 for the life of the loan.

Spangler, who had said she was conservative in her estimates, has said she will rework the budget to see if she can find additional savings. At the same time, Rhonemus is researching whether the district will qualify for another program, called the Energy Loan Fund.

The Energy Loan Fund is a program that provides low-cost financing to businesses, nonprofits and public entities specifically for energy improvements. Funding is provided through leftover federal and state stimulus dollars, Rhonemus explained.

If eligible, the district would pay 10 percent of the project and the Energy Loan Fund would pick up the remaining 90 percent. After adding in the 1 percent interest rate, the district would pay around $50,000 for the project, which is a preferable route, Rhonemus said.

Rhonemus sent in a pre-application earlier this week, which will determine if the district qualifies for the program. She will know the results sometime next week.

If the district opts to go with the Energy Loan Fund program, Rhonemus said she can rescind the bond issuance.

No matter how the district pays for it, the same changes are expected. The bulk of the construction will take place at the elementary/middle school in Jacksonville. A new glass vestibule that will span the length of the two front doors is expected to save in heating and cooling costs.

“The vestibule will reduce the amount of cold air coming into the building and down the two corridors,” Spangler had said.

The project will also replace older-generation T12 lights in the gym in Jacksonville and throughout the high school in Glouster with newer T8 lights.

“The lighting replacements will use half the wattage and improve light quality by producing a brighter, whiter light,” added Spangler.

Seventy-three percent of the savings will be from electricity costs. The rest of the savings will be in cubic feet of gas, Spangler said. Additional rebates from American Electric Power and Glouster Electric are not included in the estimated savings.