What's on the ballot?
On Tuesday, November 3, 2009, Charlotte residents will be asked to vote on two important bond proposals. This first, a $2.8 million bond, is for health, safety, mechanical and efficiency needs of the 1949 and 1969 buildings. The second, a $1.6 million bond, would build a wood chip heating facility to lower our dependence on oil and ultimately decrease our operating budget.
Why can't CCS continue to pay for building needs through the operational funds?
The 2007 Feasibility Study highlighted over $6 million of repair/renovations needs. The basic renovation needs of the 1949 and 1969 building exceed the capacity of the operational budget without significantly impacting the educational programs at CCS.
What will happen if the bond proposal is not approved?
The proposed renovation contains items that significantly impact the health and safety of our school, which ultimately impact the education that our children receive. If the bond fails, repairs will have to be paid for through the operating budget. With increasing pressure to curtail budget growth, increasing the operating budget for maintenance increases the likelihood of significant cuts in the educational programs for students.
In addition, the availability of the Qualified School Construction Bonds, which would allow us to borrow money at near 0% interest, is questionable after November 13, 2009. In order to apply for QSC bonds, an institution needs to have secured taxpayer approval.
Are these bond projects a result of poor maintenance?
No. Routine maintenance is funded through the operating budget. The current budget allocates $570,000 for day-to-day maintenance such as painting, replacing broken glass, plowing snow, maintaining plumbing, heating, electrical and roofing systems. Over the past 3 years, we've utilized $310,000 from the Capital Improvement Reserve Fund (CIRF) to address unanticipated repair issues throughout the building. As with any building, there comes a "critical" point when the cost of repairs becomes excessive and entire systems need to be replaced to extend a building's life. The proposed renovations for the 1949 and 1969 buildings represent such a critical point. These major systems projects involve major expenses that are not covered by the regular operating budget.
How did CCS determine priorities for bond proposals?
The school board charged a facility committee in the fall of 2008 to prioritize the $6 million dollars in repairs that were detailed in the feasibility study. The repairs that were deemed priorities fell into one (or more) of the following four categories:
1. Conditions that are unsafe or threaten the health of our students and staff,
2. Existing buildings and systems that have deteriorated beyond annual/regular maintenance,
3. Design characteristics or aging mechanical systems that result in excessive energy use, and
4. Code violations.
Why are bonds being proposed during these economic times?
The board has been looking at developing a long term facility plan since it asked for a feasibility study in 2007. There are two main reasons why these renovation projects are being proposed now. The 1949 building and systems are aging. Maintenance and utilities costs have increased dramatically. Currently, we are paying to heat, repair, and maintain school buildings and systems, which cost more to operate than comparable modern, efficient systems. These costs and the repairs will only increase in magnitude with time. The existing problems contribute to an atmosphere that is not condusive to educational learning.
In addition, there currently is an opportunity for us to utilize "stimulus" money (monies from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) allowing us to obtain near 0% interest bonds and additional grants to pay for the projects.
Wouldn't it be cheaper to take down the 1949 building and build a new one?
One of the five options that the board considered was the "Tear Down" Approach, which would have taken down the 1949 building, (except for the boiler room) and replace with a new building. This board did not support this approach for several reasons, the primary one being cost. The cost to rebuild the 15,000 square foot building was approximately $214/sf. Full project cost for just the 1949 building would have been $3.825 million in 2007 dollars. This did not account for the unit ventilator replacement in the 1969 building, which would have added an additional $231,000 to the cost. Total project cost would be over $4 million dollars on the 1949 and 1969 buildings alone.
What happens if the project bids come in under the bond amount?
If costs start tracking lower than the bond amount during design, the board will have the opportunity to implement further energy efficiency measures and/or additional scope to address the remainder of the $6 million in needed repairs.
What are the soft costs that are referred to in the scope of work?
Soft costs include: Basic A/E, other services (civil, hazmat (for the asbestos), permitting) construction management, clerk of the work, construction testing, bonding fees, legal fees, fire safety permit, and a small reserve.
Is there a long range plan to address the remainder of the repairs identified in the Feasibility Study?
The schoolboard has charged the head of maintenance at CCS to develop a 10 year Facilities Operation Plan,in concert with the Superintendent Energy Management Program.
Is a Wood Chip Facility economically beneficial to CCS?
There are many benfits, beyond economics, to utilizing biomass fuel. According to the Biomass Research Center in Montpelier, biomass fuel dollars stay in the local and state economy, the biomass fuel prices have been stable historically and are not directly linked to national or global energy markets, it’s pricing is not subject to monopolistic control, future energy taxes, such as a carbon tax or a Btu tax, are less likely to impact the price of biomass fuels compared to fossil fuels, biomass fuel comes from a renewable, resource base, and biomass systems are relatively easy to convert to other fuels and so offer great flexibility for an uncertain energy future.
A recent analysis of a similarly sized school, Camels Hump Middle School, recognized a 64% savings in their fossil fuel cost as a result of using a wood fueled heating system. http://www.biomasscenter.org/images/stories/pdfs/woodchipschools_summary07-08.pdf
What other green initiatives have been explored?
The board requested that our engineer explore alternatives to oil for our heating needs. A term of experts explored both a wood chip model and a geo-thermal model. A life cycle cost analysis demonstrated that a wood chip facility would lower the amount of fossil fuel utilized with resulting savings in our operating budget. A geo-thermal system did not demonstrate such a savings (see 2008 Mechanical Analysis/Cost Analysis Wood Chip in the left sidebar above). The two architects from Dore and Whittier working with CCS are both LEED certified and will design as "green" a building as the proposed $2.8M and $1.6M budgets allow. The school is currently working with Efficiency Vermont to maximize the energy efficiency of our lighting system throughout the school. Efficiency Vermont will also provide a project manager during the detailed design phase of the project to capitalize on energy efficiencies and pay back.
Is there a possibility of selling back to the grid if wind or solar was used?
There is always that possibility, however wind and solar technologies would add significant cost to the project and would not address our current repair and heating needs. As we recognize savings from the increased effeciency and decreased maintenance costs of the 1949 and 1969 buildings, it is hoped that these alternative technologies can be explored further and incorporated into the long term facilities plan.
What is the carbon footprint of the wood chip facility?
No new carbon dioxide is added to the atmosphere as long as the forests from which the wood came are sustainably managed. http://www.biomasscenter.org/images/issues/pdfs/FSE_Biomass%20C02.pdf
What is the actual fuel consumption of the school?
A review of fuel oil delivery over the most recent five fiscal years indicates CCS's average of gallons delivered for the entire school is 24,821.61 (22,118.15 gallons for the main school, 2,703.46 for the Quonset Hut) with a high of 29,988 gallons (FY07) and a low of 17,554 gallons (FY06). For the same period, our five year average cost was $49,238 ($43,951.61 for the main school, $5,306.58 for the Quonset Hut) with a high of $79K (FY08) and a low of $28K (FY06).
Where will the children go during the renovation?
The entire 1949 building will be closed for classroom and office space during the proposed renovation period (class-time 10 months). The remaining buildings of CCS cannot accommodate the 6 classrooms and offices that will be displaced. We are looking at reconfiguring the remaining school spaces and options both on and offsite to accommodate the needs.
What is the current long term debt and when will it be paid off?
Our current long term debt can be viewed on the budget development section of the school board's web page, here is the link to the document http://www.cssu.org/documents/CCS/budget/CCSLongTermDebt.PDF The current fiscal year includes debt service of $150,806 ($105,000 is principal) with an outstanding balance at year-end of $715,000 The debt is a 3.99% bond scheduled to be paid off in 2016 for the 1996 construction project. In December of 2007, the district made final payment on a 6.744% bond for the 1986 addition.