SYCAMORE – A multimillion dollar HVAC project for four Sycamore District 427 schools was discussed during Tuesday’s school board meeting along with funding strategies that could be pursued.
Luke Glowiak, assistant superintendent for business, outlined different strategies board members could use to fund $3.6 million in HVAC improvements to West, Southeast and North elementary schools along with the library at Sycamore High School.
A recent analysis of the climate control systems in the district suggested West and Southeast could use full air conditioning service, the high school library should install a roof top unit for air conditioning and North Elementary needed a major overhaul of its existing system.
Glowiak said the board could attempt to bid the entire $3.6 million project in one package and attempt to complete all the work over one summer or split the projects and complete projects over four to five years.
Before the board makes any decision, he said, members need to consider the financial conditions and decide which, if any, of the projects should be pursued at this time.
“I’m a great believer that kids should have just as comfortable a working environment as adults,” Glowiak said. “But I’m also a realist.”
Should the board decide to pursue the projects, it would have a few different options including spending reserves or using debt certificates. The district is expected to have $19 million in reserves at the end of fiscal year 2013, but Glowiak said it could be dangerous to drain reserves to less than $16 million with such uncertainty surrounding state funding.
“It’s more important to reserve money for kids than it is to reserve money to modernize a building,” he said.
The board could also pursue debt certificates, which provide similar funding power as bonds but do not require a referendum. A debt certificate could be paid back over 20 years and does not need a tax to be levied to support it as a bond would.
The top priority of all the proposed projects is a boiler replacement at North Elementary School. With only one 40-year-old boiler in the school, any failure could shut down the building during cold weather, Glowiak said.
That project would cost $360,000.
Board members pointed to the small number of days air conditioning is needed, declining enrollment and overall effective climate control in all buildings as reasons to delay a decision on the project.
Board President Jim Dombek said other issues, such as technology problems, could be a higher priority, because they directly affect students’ opportunities to learn.
“When you go forward with something like this, you’re going to have to give something up,” he said. “That’s where we have to do some cost-benefit analysis.”