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Trustees Hear Solar Project Proposal
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In considering the state’s fiscal crisis and looking for ways to free up money in the school district’s coffers, Oakdale Joint Unified School District Assistant Superintendent for Business Tim Hern gave a presentation on the possibility of doing an $850,000 solar energy project in the district to the Board of Trustees at the Oct. 11 regular meeting.

He noted that members of the board have asked over the past couple of years what the district could do in the form of “green” projects and considering the money that is available in capital funds, he presented the board with the option of approving a Request For Proposal (RFP) for the project.

Hern said the district will have approximately $4 million available in capital funds that are mainly from project savings and are available for use only on construction projects. Capital funds are highly restricted and may not be used in the general fund. OJUSD is currently receiving a one percent return on these dollars in the County Treasury.

He said there is a great cost-benefit ratio to the project. The return for investment would be six percent with today’s utility costs. His report showed there would be a minimum annual savings of $45,000 to the district. The project would save general fund dollars and reduce the district’s carbon footprint. He added that the project would reduce or eliminate electric bills for the district.

It would be located at Oakdale High School, and the system would be part of a shade structure over a parking lot. Members of the public did express concerns for safety of the structure as it relates to inexperienced teen drivers and bus movement through the parking lot. They also expressed concerns about lighting under the structure, especially at night, and if video surveillance would be restricted by the structure. Hern said that safety concerns would be properly addressed.

His report stated “by investing the restricted capital funds into a solar energy project the district could save utility costs charged to the unrestricted general fund,” which would allow the district to use the money saved on utilities for other educational expenditures.

The item was before the board to approve a Request for Proposals (RFP). Trustee Mike Tozzi moved to approve the RFP, but it failed for lack of a second. The issue, however, will likely come before the board again as there was much discussion amongst the board that included interest in the solar project, but they also expressed a desire to see what other capital projects may be in the district before making a decision about a RFP for a solar energy project.

In other business at the meeting, public hearings were conducted and the board unanimously approved to adopt the initial proposals to modify the agreements between the OJUSD and the Oakdale Teachers Association and also the OJUSD and the California School Employees Association Chapter #830. The 2010-2011 school year marks the need for successor agreements between the district and its unions. For the OTA, all articles as well as salary, and health and welfare benefits are open for negotiation. The successor agreement will be for the 2010-11, 2011-12, and 2012-13 school years. For the CSEA successor agreement, two articles of each party’s choice, as well as salary, and health and welfare benefits will be negotiated. The 2011-12 school year will require another successor agreement to be negotiated.

Superintendent Fred Rich said that copies of the initial proposals will be on display for the public in the OJUSD office for the next 30 days.

In other business, another public hearing was conducted and the board unanimously approved the adoption of Level I school facilities fees, also known as developer fees. Hern said that this is unusual for the district, as it has been at Level II for developer fees for many years. He said that district no longer qualifies for Level II because it has achieved some goals with developer fees that have required it be moved to the other bracket.

Hern said that the district will now be collecting $2.97 per square foot for new construction or remodels over 500 square feet. Under Level II, Hern said the district would’ve been collecting somewhere around $4 per square foot. The new fee schedule will take place Oct. 12.

“We wouldn’t have been able to do over $60 million worth of construction (in the district) without developer fees,” Hern said to the board.

In announcements, the Oakdale Sunrise Rotary donated $20,000 to the Oakdale High School “Drive To Survive” program. Sunrise Rotary President John Mutoza reported that this was the second year for the program and they have donated $45,000 to OHS for the program so far, and plan to donate $20,000 to the program each year. The program addresses dangers of driving and brings awareness to teen drivers and their parents, helping students to be safer behind the wheel and help protect them. The Sunrise Rotary also donated $300 to go toward books at East Stanislaus High School.

The next regular meeting of the OJUSD Board of Directors will be at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 8 at the Oakdale City Council Chambers, 277 No. Second.