By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — Borrowing up to $2 million for the Colfax school district’s energy efficiency project could be an option.
But Bill Yingst, district administrator, says it is unlikely the Colfax Board of Education will have to borrow that much money.
Although the Board of Education approved borrowing up to $2 million at the May 28 meeting, the agenda submitted for publication in the Colfax Messenger and posted in the district’s customary three places did not appear to meet the requirements outlined by the state’s Open Meetings Law.
According to the Attorney General’s Compliance Guide to the Open Meetings Law, agendas should contain enough specific information to alert the public about the actions anticipated by a governing body.
In this case, the agenda should have included specific information informing the public that the Board of Education planned to consider a resolution that would authorize borrowing up to $2 million.
The Colfax school board decided to repost and republish the notice to hold a special meeting June 4 to take another vote on the resolution for borrowing up to $2 million.
The proposed energy efficiency project would include a variety of options, such as replacing portions of roof that are leaking, replacing wall heaters that were installed in 1963 and replacing several buses that have more than 200,000 miles on them with buses that burn compressed natural gas (CNG).
Two sections of the roof installed in 1988 and 1990 need to be replaced with insulation and new rubber membrane, Yingst said.
Those sections of the roof have cracked membrane and are leaking, he said.
All together, 16 univent wall heaters installed in 1963 also need to be replaced because of their inefficiency and because of sound issues in the classrooms, Yingst said.
As for the buses, Colfax has three buses that are over 20 years old with more than 200,000 miles and six additional buses that are getting close to 200,000 miles, Yingst said.
Part of the energy efficiency project could involve replacing two to four buses that burn gasoline with buses that burn CNG, he said.
Right now, the cost for CNG is about a third of the cost of gasoline, Yingst noted.
The energy efficiency project also would include updating to wireless computer technology.
To take advantage of fiber optic lines recently installed in the school buildings, the computer system needs to be upgraded, Yingst said.
The wireless technology will allow the use of laptop computers and iPads, which are more energy efficient than desktop models and would also provide more operational savings for IT personnel, he noted.
In addition, all school districts in the state will be required to complete standardized tests for third grade students and above by using computers, and like many school districts, Colfax is not equipped to support testing in that manner on a large scale, Yingst said.
If the Colfax school board selects fewer options for the energy efficiency project, the cost would be a little over $1 million. If the school board selects more options, the cost could be closer to $2 million.
If the Board of Education were to approve all of the options, the cost would be $2.5 million.
Part of the business that was expected to be conducted at the special meeting June 4 included narrowing the scope of the project.
Under state law, if the project will cost more than $1 million, the Colfax school district would have to hold a referendum on the question.
Under current state law, the Colfax Board of Education can approve borrowing over $1 million, but must then publish a notice in the district’s official newspaper that a resolution has been passed and notifying the electors of the district that they have 30 days to collect enough signatures on a petition to force a referendum.
The number of signatures needed would be 7,500 or 20 percent of the number of electors in the school district who voted in the last gubernatorial election — in this case, the election of 2010 — or whichever is less.
Yingst said the Colfax Board of Education is hoping to advertise for bids for the energy efficiency project, award the bids and have the construction completed by the end of this summer.
Colfax schools have lost nearly $600,000 in state aid, and finding the money to complete routine maintenance and to replace outdated equipment with more energy-efficient options is becoming increasingly difficult, Yingst said.
The Colfax School District was recently awarded a Qualified Zone Academy Bond (QZAB) from the state Department of Public Instruction that will allow the school district to borrow up to $1 million at in interest rate of between zero percent and a half a percent, he said.
Local bank market rates are currently around 3 percent interest for $1 million over ten years, Yingst noted.