The Ohio School Facilities Commission on January 26 heard an overview of an energy-saving program administered by the body and why it often takes schools the maximum allowable amount of time to pay back the state.

Jon Walden, manager of Contracts and Compliance, described the School Energy Conservation Financing Program, which allows districts to make energy efficiency improvements to their buildings and use the incorporated savings to pay for those upgrades.

Questions had arisen at the November OSFC meeting about why so many districts in the program ran right up against at 15-year maximum time frame for paying back money borrowed from the state. 

Mr. Walden said schools often have to balance their projects using multiple improvements because some changes elicit faster energy cost savings than others. For instance, window replacements take an average of 30 to 80 years to realize savings enough to cover the project cost whereas lighting improvements can be paid for in three to five years.

Older buildings often have many improvement needs, he said. “What they do, they have the scope of those projects and when they put them together they buy as much as they can to fall within that lawful payback period.”

The program also underwent some changes through the last budget bill. Applicants must now include the residual value of any equipment being replaced as part of its calculation of cost and payback period, Mr. Walden said. “So in effect we’re trying to change this because it helps maximize the improvements but also recognizing we want to minimize the impact on taxpayer dollars.”

District must now also look at baseline energy costs over a five-year rather than one-year period to determine the savings expected to result from improvements, he said. Lastly, the budget now requires schools provide annual reports to ensure they are realizing projected savings.

Also on Thursday, the commission re-elected Office of Budget and Management Director Tim Keen as chairman and Department of Administrative Services Director Robert Blair as vice chairman for the 2012 calendar year.