Big ticket items
RACINE — The Unified School District approved about $33.8 million in building projects designed to increase energy savings and help to offset future maintenance and capital costs.
The School Board voted Monday to approve two contracts, one with Trane worth about $15 million and another with Johnson Controls worth another $18 million. Together, the two projects will address about $20 million worth of needs highlighted in the district’s $90 million deferred maintenance list.
Construction is set to begin as early as October on the nearly 80 separate projects district-wide and includes upgrades to windows, doors, lighting, boilers and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.
Energy and maintenance savings from the projects should exceed the costs in 20 years or fewer. Savings of at least the projects’ costs would also be guaranteed through “performance contracts” with Trane and Johnson Controls. And if a project saves less than anticipated, including circumstances such as school closures, Trane or Johnson Controls would pay Unified the difference, according to Unified officials.
The Trane contract was unanimously approved Monday by the board, while the Johnson Controls contract passed by a vote of 4 to 2, with President Dennis Wiser and Treasurer Don Nielsen voting against it.
About $13 million of the $15 million Trane contract addresses projects on the district’s deferred maintenance list, and only about $6.5 million of Johnson Controls’ $18 million contract are for projects designated by the list.
“I was disappointed with our communication within the district,” Wiser said after Monday’s board meeting. “For years we have worked off a single major maintenance list and the board has talked about it, the public has talked about it, and it’s been presented to the press. And now all of a sudden, there are two major maintenance lists.”
Part of the explanation for this is that certain projects — primarily replacement of aging boilers — are not outlined in the $90 million deferred maintenance list, according to Unified’s Building and Grounds Director Bryan Arnold.
An original list presented to the board in May also included plans for middle-school science labs that were dropped last month because of timing, according to Unified CFO Dave Hazen.
Those labs, as well as other projects, could later be added as an addendum but would have to be approved by the board, Hazen said.
Money for the projects would initially be borrowed but would eventually come from property taxes. The projects would not increase taxes, though; instead tax levels will be maintained when a previous referendum expires after 2012-13.
Unified is allowed to fund the projects that way because state law permits districts to collect money for energy-efficiency upgrades without going to a referendum even if the money collected pushes district revenue over the state-imposed revenue cap.
Performance contracts are not unique to Racine Unified. The Union Grove High School District Board decided in February to enter into a performance contract with Trane. The projects in Union Grove’s performance contract are still be tweaked but could cost up to $1.5 million.
By Journal Times