Company scans Falls school buildings for energy savings

June 12, 2012

Menomonee Falls - The Menomonee Falls School District is researching ways to become more energy efficient in an effort to save money in the long run.

With the help of McKinstry, an energy savings company that works predominantly in school districts across the United States, key areas in district buildings were identified that could use an energy boost. McKinstry consultant Nick Laubusch presented his findings from his walk-through of the buildings to the Finance and Auxiliary Services Committee last week. He identified North Middle School as the district's least energy efficient building in need of the most work.

The board's 2012-2013 preliminary budget approval includes the use of energy savings revenue to be utilized in funding energy saving facility improvement projects in the amount of $325,000.

For one year only in the 2012-2013 school year, school districts also have an opportunity to use an energy savings revenue exemption set by the state to fund those projects. According to Business Manager Jeff Gross the legislation allows school districts to issue bonds to help pay for large energy saving projects and utilize the revenue exemption in order to pay down the related debt issuance for up to 20 years.

Any bond issuance is subject to petition by voters.

As part of the legislation, in order to qualify for the exemption, the legislation requires that the energy savings is guaranteed by a certified engineering firm.

The finance committee last week approved moving forward with a detailed engineering study conducted by McKinstry to determine the amount of energy savings that can be guaranteed with possible facility improvement projects.

"To do any revenue limit exemption, we need a guarantee of results to make sure we didn't spend money without getting results," Gross said.

In total, Laubusch said the initial walk-through identified at the most $1.5 million worth of projects the district may be able to tackle to save energy. The project cost will be finalized in the detailed study, as well as the exact amount of energy savings.

Every year, the school board would have to vote to exceed the revenue limit to pay off the debt accrued through energy projects, or use instructional funds.

"The payment of the bond issue would come out of energy savings and each year the board has the option to take it out of the capital plan or exceed the revenue limits," Gross said.

In the initial review of the district, Laubusch said Menomonee Falls is already highly efficient in energy uses. His main focus was North Middle School. As an older building, the middle school's energy costs are about 10 percent higher than other buildings. To mitigate this, he is suggesting work on lighting, the boiler, air handler and an HVAC control in the gym.

In his walk-through, Laubusch also saw potential need for a swimming pool cover, lighting work at Shady Lane Elementary and a control upgrade at Valley View Elementary School.

The annual utility savings and operational savings estimate is $78,000. The anticipated initial tax credits and utility rebates total $24,500.

The project details and exact costs and savings will be finalized during the detailed study and brought to the school board in August for discussion.

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