NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — It’s time for the city’s school district to pay up.
The Board of Education approved a nearly $1.7 million payment to TD Equipment Finance last week, for $17 million in energy-related improvements that have taken place throughout New Brunswick Public Schools. The district will continue to pay for the upgrades, which were green-lit almost three years ago, through 2033.
Energy savings resulting from the improvements and the state Board of Public Utilities funded the Energy Savings Improvement Program (ESIP), Business Administrator Richard Jannarone said during the meeting.
“About two-and-a-half years ago, we embarked on an ESIP project,” he said, “where we did solar and cogeneration and lighting improvements to the school district.”
In 2014, when the project was announced, district officials expected more than $18 million in savings over 17 years.
When all is said and done, the school district will pay roughly $22.2 million to the financier, a Cherry Hill-based division of TD Bank, according to the contract. Along with the initial cost of the sweeping project, the school board must pony up $5.2 million in interest.
The idea behind ESIP is that savings from going green will render the annual payments cost-neutral, according to the state. School districts throughout New Jersey have entered similar agreements.
Under its ESIP program, New Brunswick has installed and replaced a good deal of energy-saving infrastructure in its buildings.
Automation systems, special fans in school gyms, LED lighting, pipe insulation, window film and more have been put in place district-wide, according to the contract.
Other notable improvements include added cooling in classrooms at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School, boiler replacements at McKinley Community School and New Brunswick Middle School and systems that cogenerate electricity in McKinley, the middle school and New Brunswick High School.
In the scope of the project, the district struck agreements to install solar panels at four sites, according to the contract.
School district staffers have also undergone energy-friendly training.
The district is in a lease-purchase agreement with TD Equipment Finance. That means New Brunswick’s front office selected which equipment it needed, and then TD bought the items to lease to the school district.
The infrastructure is meant to last beyond the span of the lease. Under the terms of the agreement, the Board of Education may eventually choose to buy the equipment from TD.
The school district’s payment for 2017 comprises more than $460,000 in interest and nearly $600,000 toward the price of the improvements, according to last week’s resolution.
The board made its first payment to TD last winter.
Interest owed by the board gradually declines as the years pass. By 2033, New Brunswick Public Schools will spend just $13,000 in interest.
But the majority of the district’s annual payments are slated to top $1 million, according to the contract.