By ROSS BROWN
PAXTON — Paxton-Buckley-Loda school board members entered into a commitment of interest regarding the proposed installation of solar panels on the rooftops of the school district’s four school buildings next year.
Superintendent Cliff McClure stressed that the measure is not a final agreement but instead a resolution stating that the board is ready to proceed with an application but has not yet agreed to purchase solar panels.
Early on during the board’s monthly meeting last Wednesday night, Allie Loschen of Novel Energy Solutions presented information to the board regarding solar panels on school buildings.
Loschen said solar panels installed on a flat roof would be able to be moved around easily and could withstand a "1-inch steel ball," meaning that the panels would be sturdy and not be damaged by weather-related matters. Loschen said that a crucial credit would expire near the end of the year, which was made possible by Illinois’ Future Energy Jobs Act.
Board member Steve Pacey asked Loschen if the panels are manufactured domestically, to which she said they are not and instead made in China.
Loschen also said the district would only be charged for electricity that runs through the meter.
McClure said the board members’ vote would start an application process.
"In order for Allie to continue the application for her company, she needs to have a commitment from us that says ‘yes, we’re interested,’" McClure said. "In order to get that ball in motion with a tight window for credits, they need to complete the application."
McClure said the final decision on a contract purchase would be made in November, the month when the special renewable-energy credits from the state expire.
Pacey asked why the board was moving the process along quickly since the new addition to Clara Peterson Elementary School is nowhere near completion.
"We’re going to be committed to the process when we don’t have the building anywhere near done yet," Pacey said. "We don’t know what our engineers are going to say."
Preliminary tax levy
Also during the meeting, McClure presented board members with a preliminary property tax levy for the district for 2018.
The district’s 2018 estimated equalized assessed valuation (EAV) is $169,375,322, up from $166,054,237 last year. The taxed rate this year is proposed to be 6.175 percent, which is a reduction from last year’s rate of 6.199 percent. McClure attributed this to the overall EAV increase.
A total of $10,459,604 is projected to be levied on taxpayers, according to data provided by McClure. More than half of that amount is from the education fund ($6,182,199) followed by bonds and operations, maintenance and budget. The total aggregate levy without the bonds is $8,281,437.
McClure said the levy presented is the first in a three-step process. A proposed levy will be voted on next month, with approval of a final version of the levy coming in December.
Also during the meeting:
➜ Board members approved an increase to $9.50 for the hourly wage paid to substitute teachers for educational support personnel. McClure said PBL has "never paid above minimum wage" in that area, which is currently $8.25 per hour.
➜ McClure said the 2019 IERMP employee health insurance rates will increase 12 percent for singles and 15 percent for family medical insurance plans. McClure noted that last year was a bad year claims-wise, necessitating the increase, but he said that PBL’s plans are still below average. "$1,800 is the going rate," McClure said. "Ours is extremely less and still lower than $1,800."
➜ Board Vice President Dave Dowling was appointed as the board’s representative at the Illinois Association of School Boards annual convention in Chicago next month. Dowling urged board members to review proposed resolutions, noting that one would lobby the state legislature to allow faculty and administrators to be armed. Pacey said he was against those measures and also one that would allow school districts to borrow money without a public hearing.
➜ Brian Mrozek of Chicago-based Gilbane, the district’s construction-management firm, said that steel installation is occurring at the new building addition under construction next to Clara Peterson Elementary School and electrical work is going on in the wall areas.