Shorewood School Board approves reduced borrowing for energy projects

Longer payback projects still to be addressed

Oct. 24, 2012

Shorewood - The Shorewood School Board voted, 4-1, last week to trim its borrowing for energy-saving projects around the district to approximately $2.1 million, down from the $5.5 million it had been considering earlier. Board member Ruth Treisman voted against the measure, saying she would have liked to explore more options.

Unlike the $5.5 million borrowing, the $2.1 million - with an additional $500,000 in revenue limit exemption in the 2012-13 year - will finance projects that will pay for themselves through energy savings, officials said, and will be levy and taxpayer neutral.

However, the reduced funds leave out costly boiler work around the district that has a much longer payback period than the 15-year term of the bonds, which would have been financed by original proposal. Although the board has approved the lesser amount of funding and energy saving projects, to be completed through a performance contract with Honeywell International, there was talk of revisiting the boiler projects after consulting with the community.

"Six months from now, we may not have a referendum, but we will have enough public meetings to get the public's pulse on whether or not we should incur the added expenditure of doing the boilers," board member Michael Mishlove said.

Questions remain

Underlying the board's decision to reduce the amount of financing were the contentions that the community should have more say on such a large amount - be it through input at public meetings or through a formal referendum - and that a potential legal complication could hamstring the district as it repays the debt in future years.

Former board member and current Finance Director at the Brown Deer School District Emily Koczela told the board that the requirements for performance contracts and the revenue limit exemptions, which the district would need to apply for to pay down debt on the larger bond amount, are not the same, which could hurt the district someday if it failed to have an exemption approved by the state DPI and would need to find the money elsewhere in the budget.

"A valid performance contract is not enough to use the revenue limit exemption," Koczela said. "There are other requirements you have to meet."

The district's financial adviser, Michele Wiberg of PMA Financial Network, disagreed. She said there is precedent for similar borrowing around the state and that the legal issue had been resolved by the district's lawyer.

However, there was not consensus among the board regarding the issue when the vote took place.

The added boiler work projects are expected to come before the board at future meetings.

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