BENNINGTON >> On Tuesday, the Bennington School District will ask the voters to approve Article C, which will allow the district to take out a bond to pay for energy renovations at all three Bennington elementary schools.
On Wednesday, the board held a special meeting which featured a presentation from Michael Davey, of Energy Efficient Investments, the company that has been studying energy efficiency in the schools, and Rick Pembroke, chief financial officer of the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union. "My company is located in Merrimack, N.H.," said Davey, "and we've been working on energy efficiency projects in school districts across New England, including a recent project with the Hanover and Norwich, Vt. school systems, which was a comprehensive renovation to three of their facilities. We've spent the last year working on an energy study on the three schools here in Bennington, the results of which were an energy efficiency project that was voted on and approved by the school board."
That project would require a $4,461,000 bond of a term of 15 years, with a 2.63 percent interest rate. Pembroke explained that the impact of voting yes on this article would not be felt until the 2017 tax bill, and the increase would represent about a 1.261 cent increase in the rate per $100 in appraised value in the first year, which would decrease every year until the bond is paid off, at which point the projected savings from the increased energy efficiency would save voters about a cent per $100. Pembroke said that, once the new systems are installed, the district can expect about $150,000 in savings annually, as well as a $24,000 rebate from Efficiency Vermont in the first year.
"What we found," said Davey, "Is that most of the systems were installed in the 1970's. Those components are at the end of their lives." Davey said the current steam heating system was so inefficient in some of the schools that teachers have to open their windows on a 33 degree day to control the temperatures of their classrooms. He said that system would be replaced with high-efficiency hot water heating. Other complaints heard from educators included drafty windows, old equipment that is so loud it disrupts learning, inconsistent temperatures in classrooms, and the high frequency of maintenance required.
While the specific improvements done will vary from school to school, in total, the improvements will include replacing the heaters, and installing double-pane windows, new high-efficiency boilers, LED lighting throughout the schools, and new digital controls.
"Supporting Article C will have no impact on your November 2016 tax bill," said the board in a written statement, "Starting in 2017, the net cost of these upgrades will add $12.61 in taxes on a $100,000 assessed home and will decrease annually over the life of the bond. The district and taxpayers will continue to realize energy savings long after the bond has been paid."
"Some of the current equipment is more than forty years old and ultimately will need replacing. Not supporting Article C will require the district to upgrade equipment over a long period of time, risking emergency spending and forgoing immediate energy savings, which will cause unpredictable, tax rate spikes. Supporting Article C allows the district to proactively replace this equipment over the summer with a predictable impact on future tax rates," they added.
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.