District airs nearly $34M school budget

Voters will head to the polls May 18 to vote on the proposed 2021-22 school budget. File photo

COXSACKIE — Construction on a $2.7 million project aimed at increasing energy efficiency in the Coxsackie-Athens School District will begin later this month.

The project is being completed by Ecosystem Energy Services, based in Massachusetts, working in conjunction with Albany consulting architect CSArch.

State aid will pay for a portion of the project’s cost and energy savings realized by the district over the coming years will pay for the rest, District Superintendent Randall Squier said Monday.

“State aid will pay for 71% of the project,” Squier said. “The energy savings will pay for the rest of the project and is guaranteed by Ecosystem. If the school does not realize the agreed-upon savings, Ecosystem contractually must pay the district the difference.”

The project, financed by a 15-year bond, won’t cost taxpayers a dime, Assistant Superintendent of School Services Leslie Copleston said Monday.

“The company comes in and makes improvements and changes and we are guaranteed savings that will pay for the debt service that we will have to borrow to pay for the improvements,” Copleston said.

Replacing the heating system at Coxsackie-Athens High School represents a big component of the savings in energy costs, she added.

“We have a very antiquated steam heating system in the high school, which needs a lot of repairs,” Copleston said. “It will be replaced with a hot-water heating system that will save on energy costs and repairs.”

Once completed, the project is expected to generate approximately 60% in energy savings each year and reduce the district’s energy bills by $102,000 annually, according to a statement from the district.

Renovations are expected to be finished by September, Ecosystem spokeswoman Charlotte Cutter said Monday.

“The school district wanted to reduce their energy consumption, lower their maintenance costs and improve the comfort level in all four of the buildings,” Cutter said.

Changes will be made to the district’s high school, middle school and both elementary schools.

Other upgrades include converting the district’s lighting system to LED, which is more energy efficient and has to be replaced less often, Cutter said.

The control system will also be improved, leading to less maintenance and repairs, she said.

“Controls are how you manage equipment. You might have to run to four different buildings to see what is malfunctioning. Optimizing the system means there is less oversight required and it is a little easier to manage,” she added.

A small fix will be installing door sweeps at the bottom of doors to cut down on drafts, she said.

But the most significant energy savings will come from the steam to hot water conversion at the high school, Cutter said.

“The main measure is converting the steam heating system to a hot-water system. That is a big improvement because steam systems require a higher temperature and they are less efficient,” Cutter said. “Older systems use steam, which needs to be at a higher temperature, is less safe and there are more losses in energy bringing it across the pipe. Converting that to hot water uses less energy because it’s more efficient and a lower temperature is required, and there is less energy loss.”

The district had already made changes to improve energy efficiency, so Ecosystem had to seek out more innovative, less obvious ways of cutting costs, Cutter said.

“They had already done a lot of work on the schools so the administration and facilities department are already really knowledgeable about energy efficiency,” Cutter said. “One of the challenges for Ecosystem was to uncover value and more innovative improvements. When we came in it wasn’t an obvious project — we had to look at the less obvious solutions because some steps had already been taken.”

The project is designed to both cut costs and make the schools more comfortable, Squier said.

“We are very proud to be working with Ecosystem to achieve our goals: To create learning spaces that are more comfortable to support student learning, and to become more energy efficient, saving money that could be used directly for educational purposes,” Squier said.

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