MAHOPAC, N.Y.— The Mahopac School District is gearing up once again to ask voters to approve a referendum that will allow it to make much-needed building repairs to three of its school buildings, as well as take on an energy-performance improvement project. School officials said neither project will result in an increase in taxes.
Residents turned down the plan during a referendum vote last November by a 140-125 margin.
Schools officials blamed the negative vote on their failure to publicize and educate residents about the projects and how the financing would work. This time around, the officials said, they plan on giving presentations to civic organizations, seniors and other community groups. This referendum will be held in conjunction with the budget vote on May 16, ensuring a better voter turnout.
At last week’s Board of Education meeting, Garrett Hamlin, director of architecture for Tetra Tech Architects & Engineers, the district’s architectural firm, and Aldo J. Mazzaferro III, director of project development for ECG Engineering, a Smithtown, N.Y.-based company hired by the district to implement the energy-performance plan, gave the first in what will be a series of presentations explaining the two projects, which call for nearly $8 million in capital improvements.
The proposed projects include two components. The first includes a series of energy-performance improvements (known as an energy-performance contract, or EPC) to several schools throughout the district, including the addition of solar energy. The second is a roof replacement project for three schools.
The district has been working for about two years in preparation for the projects. Last year, it contracted Ameresco, an energy service company, to perform energy audits on the district’s myriad buildings to uncover potential energy-saving opportunities.
Mazzaferro said the proposed EPC is actually Phase 2 of a project that began in 2010.
The other technology that will be implemented is solar power.
A complete overview of the energy-performance improvements includes:
Lighting fixtures upgraded to LED technology (every space throughout the district)
Replacement of pneumatic temperature controls at Lakeview Elementary School (Mazzaferro said pneumatic controls tend to fail so they will upgrade to electronic controls, which they call more accurate.)
Replacement of exterior doors at Lakeview, Fulmar and Mahopac Falls schools (to reduce the amount of cold air that infiltrates the buildings)
Installation of large-scale, roof-mounted, solar PV panels at Lakeview and Austin Road schools (These will be non-penetrating systems with no nails being driven into the roofs. They will be held down with bricks, which prolongs the life of the roofs.)
The energy improvements are projected to save more money than they will actually cost, Mazzaferro said, which is why it won’t impact the district’s budget. In fact, Ameresco has guaranteed the savings, which means if the systems don’t perform Ameresco has to reimburse the district.
The first year’s financials break down this way: The overall cost of the EPC is about $4.2 million. The first year’s guaranteed savings is $261,527, plus $108,137 in state aid. The district will make a debt payment of $337,361 and pay $8,078 for annual solar PV panel maintenance. It all results in a positive annual cash flow of $24,225, which translates to a $1.3 million positive cash flow over the 18-year term of the deal.
Mazzaferro said construction should begin some time in the summer of 2018.
With the prospect of installing solar panels on top of the schools, district officials knew that they would first have to address the issue of the deteriorating roofs. The district performed a study of roofs in 2014 and came up with a long-term replacement plan.
Lakeview is the worst offender and its roof is in desperate need of replacement.
The projected cost of the roofing project is $3.7 million. But as Ron Clamser, assistant superintendent for business and human resources, explained, that, too, will not necessitate any budget increases or tax hikes.
State aid will cover 42 percent of the project, which leaves about $1.55 million for the district. Last year, voters approved a measure allowing the district to create a capital reserve account that cannot exceed $2.5 million or last longer than five years. The district currently has about $1.37 million in that reserve account, money that came from unexpended reserves.
Clamser said the district is likely to add more to the reserve account and pay off the balance of the roof project.
Clamser said the upgrades are the culmination of lots of work and lots of financial planning over the last two years.
“It won’t cost us money but will save us money in the future,” he said.