The Swanton Board of Education reviewed a solar energy project proposal and financial updates at a special meeting on Wednesday.
At the start of the meeting, the board heard a presentation from En-Trust, LLC representatives.
“We have been talking with them on and off for a while now about doing a solar field at Swanton High School to help with our energy costs and to help us be a little bit greener in our operations,” said Swanton Superintendent Chris Lake.
A power purchase agreement is being proposed and would include no upfront cost to the district. Energy costs would also be a fixed rate for 30 years, according to Mike Campo, CEO of En-Trust. That rate would be nine cents per kilowatt hour, compared to the current 11.25 cents per kilowatt hour.
The proposed solar array is 620 kilowatts and would cover just under three acres of land north of the high school. Campo said they put the array on the ground rather than on roofs because they are more stable and secure.
Campo added that the estimated savings for the district after 20 years would be approximately $1.5 million.
En-Trust concentrates their business with school districts and municipalities. They currently have eight solar fields at northwest Ohio schools including one for Wauseon Exempted Village Schools.
A vote on the agreement by the board would be held at an upcoming meeting. The next regular board meeting is Wednesday.
In an update on district finances, Treasurer Joyce Kinsman told the Board how officials are planning ahead and for submission of the five-year financial forecast. She said a 10-20% decrease in state funding is possible for next school year, along with a decrease in income tax collections.
The school district income tax reduction is estimated to be about 5%, but the state cut is a wild card, according to Lake.
For this fiscal year, the district will have about an $80,000 deficit following the funding cuts announced by Governor Mike DeWine, which would not be a huge concern for Kinsman. “Next year, if we take a 10% or 20% reduction in state funding, that’s going to be a little rough,” she said.
There are still many unknowns when it comes to revenue for the district moving forward. That makes planning for the future difficult.
With at least some cuts nearly guaranteed, Kinsman also announced the reduction of three staff members through attrition for next school year. Two teaching positions and a custodian position will not be filled.
Other money saving options are also being investigated, such as the solar field project and LED lighting. “We feel like we’re on track in the near future to get into some significant savings in the energy area at the buildings,” said Lake.
It is also still unknown just how schooling will look in the fall.
“I think the hard part in making guesses is whether we go back to school next year or not,” said board member Ben Remer. “So if we don’t have to turn the lights on in the high school next year that saves us a ton of money, right? But if we do have to go back and turn the lights on, there’s almost two different budgets that we need to do.”
Lake agreed it is a difficult position. “We’ve not gotten any specific guidance as of this point. So it leaves us making contingency plans for A through Z what a school year could look like,” he said.
Reach Drew Stambaugh at 419-335-2010