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D122 approves LED light purchase for school parking lots

The New Lenox School District 122 Board Of Education authorized the purchase of new LED lights for some school parking lots that could result in future cost-savings at their March 15 meeting.

In a unanimous vote, the board approved a measure that intends to replace lights at Oster-Oakview, Haines and Cherry Hill schools.

“This is similar to a project that we completed in June 2015 when the board approved the purchase of LED lights [for two schools],” said Business Manger Bob Groos. “We then installed those lights, filled out grant paperwork and get an incentive back from the state for the energy savings.”

The purchase of the LED lights will cost the district approximately $15,800. It will be paid for, in part, by an Illinois Energy Now Public Sector Energy Efficiency grant valued at $4,500 that is offered through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

“Actually, it’ll be a little bit higher than that because we got more information back today,” Groos said of the grant. “Anywhere between $4,500 and $7,500 in grant rebates, we’ll receive later on.”

What’s more is there are further opportunities for cost-savings, Groos said.

“The biggest savings is that… it’s a drastic decrease in the amount of energy that the lights use,” Groos said. “We would save about $4,000 a year on electricity, as well. So, really you get the new lights, which last at least 10 years before you ever have to change any of the bulbs. It’s a brighter light and really, it pays for itself in a matter of a couple of years.”

The district intends to have these lights installed before May 31.

Board member Phil Adair questioned the amount of savings the district could see by purchasing the LED lights and said it’s surprising to him.

“They did a calculation on that with all the bulbs … and kilowatts?” he asked.

“There’s a spreadsheet where it counts up all the different lights, the amount of watts that the current lights have, which are the old-fashioned lights that use a lot of electricity, and then these new LED lights use such a small amount of electric,” Groos explained. “They could compare the differences and calculate what that savings is.”

Adair said that’s a good savings, especially considering the LED lights will be used at three schools.

Groos agreed.

“An even bigger saving comes in that our maintenance guys are not up changing light bulbs, they’re not renting equipment to get up there, they’re not buying new bulbs all the time,” Groos said.

“They’re ideal for outdoors and the parking lots,” Groos said.

Groos added that this will be five schools they’ll have now completed parking lot light replacements, and they’ll look to expand each year moving forward.

Implications of potential property tax freeze discussed

With talk of a potential property tax freeze circling politics in Springfield, the New Lenox School District 122 Board of Education took a moment to review some scenarios as it pertains to how such a measure could have an impact locally.

State lawmakers have outlined measures that call for a two-year freeze and another that is permanent.

“If they did do the two-year [Consumer Price Index] freeze but we were still able to levy for the new property growth, we would have to cut approximately $1.9 million out of the budget,” said Superintendent Dr. Peggy Manville.

Manville said the district sent some figures to State Rep. Margo McDermed and State Sen. Michael Hastings, offering a snapshot into how a property tax freeze would impact their ability to serve constituents. The district has been sending these numbers to them for a couple years, she said.

“We’re all just kind of waiting to see what actually happens,” Manville said. “It’s hard because everyday there’s a new message.”

Board member Sue Smith questioned how far out the district will need to make cuts if for one year they, for example, slashed personnel costs.

Manville tried to explain.

“If we were to cut that for the one year, then it would stop the compounding,” she said. “Let’s say, you had to cut $1.8 [million] in personnel costs because that’s where the bulk of our costs are, then that wouldn’t be compounding every year. So, you’d have to permanently cut that. It wouldn’t be a one-time cut.”

Manville said she knows the district talked to parents over the years about bringing back certain programs or services if the financial situation improved. They wouldn’t be able to do that with a tax freeze, she said.

“I don’t think anyone anticipated that there’d ever be legislation that would be calling for a tax freeze, which is the way we get our money for school districts in Illinois,” Manville said.

Adair recognizes that the district has some fund balance and said that could help cushion the blow if a two-year freeze is implemented.

Groos said the district should use caution if that’s how they choose to fill the gap left by the state freezing property taxes they’re owed.

“The two-year freeze is still permanent, though,” he said. “Once that revenue is decreased, it’s permanently decreased. If it’s a two-year freeze compared to if there is no freeze at all, that’s $2 million less of revenue every year forever.”

Manville said a permanent tax freeze would present an even greater challenge. The district would have to go out for referendum in order to get increased funding, she said.

“It’s just amazing to me that they would not come up with another way before getting rid of that [formula to fund education],” Manville said.

Smith said something has to give with the way education is funded.

“It’s just unsustainable at the rate that’s going now,” she said.

Manville agreed.

“We’ll see what happens,” Manville said.

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