Saturday, December 16, 2017

Berlin School Board

December 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Upgrading To LED Lighting To Save Money

By Doug La Rocque

Karl Stewart of Integra LED appeared before the Berlin School Board at its meeting on Tuesday, November 21, to urge the Board to consider a proposal to change from fluorescent bulbs to Light Emitting Diodes (LED) in both the Elementary and Middle School/High School Buildings. This would be done to save what would amount to more than $100,000 over the next five years. The Board squeezed Mr. Stewart into the agenda at the last minute because a deadline to apply to New York State Electric and Gas (NYSEG) for incentives at the current levels was about to expire. If the Board did not approve a contract before November 29, NYSEG had permission from New York State to reduce these incentives by as much as 50 percent.

Integra LED is the same company that upgraded the lighting in the MS/HS Gymnasium last year, and at that time went through and counted all the lights in both of the district’s buildings. Mr. Stewart told the Board the cost to replace the lighting in the Elementary School would be $35,957, before applying a $7,158 incentive from the utility company. This would result in a project cost of $28,419, but would save the district more than $11,000 annually in kilowatt hours and maintenance. The maintenance savings being that LED lighting uses direct wire and does not require a ballast and the bulbs last about five times longer than the conventional fluorescent lighting. Over five years the district would realize a savings of $57,000. In the MS/HS building the project cost before incentive is slightly more than $73,000, with an NYSEG reduction of $12,000, bringing the total cost to $57,300. The annual savings here would be in the neighborhood of $23,000. On top of these savings numbers, the district would, under some newly implemented state guidelines, be able to post apply for a state reimbursement of slightly more than $12,000 for the gymnasium project.

Normally, Integra LED requests 50% down for commercial ventures, but because this is a school district replacement, the company would be willing to accept a monthly payment of $2,800, which is what the monthly savings for the combined buildings works out to, until the district receives the state reimbursement and can place the total cost in next year’s school budget. Several members of the Board called this “a no brainer” and the full Board voted to approve the contract that night, in time to qualify for the higher incentive levels. Integra LED anticipates the program will be completed by early February 2018, and would not interfere with any work in the proposed Capital Improvement Project.

That Project Also Takes a Step Forward

The architectural firm Synthesis opened the meeting with an update on its plans and estimated costs. The proposed project was broken down into three sections dealing with the Transportation Facility (Bus Garage), and the two district buildings. The idea is to build a new bus garage while keeping the current facility functional until the construction is complete. Synthesis Principal Jim Graham estimates this will cost about four million dollars. Renovations to the Elementary School will cost about two million, while changes and upgrades to the MS/HS will run in the neighborhood of 3.5 million. This brings the total cost to an estimated 9.5 million, of which 80% would be provided by New York State School Aid, with the district responsible for the other 20%, or about 1.9 million. The Board had previously indicated this cost could be covered by reserves, thus not impacting the tax rate.

One of the highlighted improvements to both schools would be the construction of secure entranceways. Changes in corridors, offices, classrooms, libraries and science labs are also part of the proposal. The Board scheduled a special meeting for 6:30 pm on Tuesday, November 28 to begin the process by declaring it will be the lead agency for the required State Environmental Quality Review. Synthesis is also proposing upgrades and replacements to some of the school’s athletic fields, including the soccer, baseball and softball sites. The addition of this proposal would create what they labeled as a slight increase to the tax rate and hoped to have some solid numbers for the Board when they meet on November 28.

A Warning About Next Year’s State Aid Levels

Board member Jeff Paine is the District’s Legislative Liaison and he told the other members indications are New York State may finish its fiscal year in March 2018 with a budget deficit of 8.6 billion dollars. As to how this might impact state aid to local school districts, he says, is not certain.

High School Principal Dr. Cathy Allain said the recent Veteran’s Breakfast and Assembly put on by students was well attended, well received by the veterans and, at times, very emotional for all. She also reported that the number of students taking part in the modified basketball program has increased to a level not seen in many years and required the formation of another team. Building and Grounds Superintendent Cyril Grant gave the Board an update on the new electronic sign to be placed in front of the MS/HS building indicating the contractor, Saxon Signs, would begin work on the foundation soon and hoped to have the new sign installed by mid-January.

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