The Iowa Energy Efficiency Coalition is urging legislators to give school boards and other local governments the authority to use energy savings to bankroll improvements to public buildings. Ann Rosenthal, a member of the Cedar Rapids School Board, says the financial maneuver is legal in 47 other states. “In general, the way it works is that a school district or other government agency implements an energy efficiency project, whether it’s replacing a heating and air conditioning system or a lighting retrofit and…they basically borrow against the future savings to pay for the project and for the first seven or 10 years the savings pays for the project,” Rosenthal says. Backers say it’s one way of avoiding raising taxes to make improvements to facilities. “You don’t have to have a bond referendum or use sales tax money to pay for these projects,” she says. It saves taxpayers upfront and in the long run, too, because it costs less to run energy efficient equipment. That savings, according to Rosenthal, can be used on other priorities, like textbooks or teacher salaries. Rosenthal says school officials need this financial maneuver to help update their facilities. She says a majority of the buildings in the Cedar Rapids School District were built before 1960, and Rosenthal believes most school buildings in the state are decades old, too. Rosenthal says Iowans are currently spending millions on wasted energy that could be used to improve the learning environment for students and improve other facilities that serve the public. The Iowa Energy Efficiency Coalition includes school board members, unions, energy companies and contractors.
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