School board approves working with company to look at possible energy savings

Published 4:48 pm Friday, March 24, 2023

Albert Lea school board members passed a resolution Monday allowing the district to engage with a third-party company about finding ways to improve energy savings.

Jennifer Walsh, executive director of finance and operations for the district, said the district planned to engage with ABM Facility Support Services LLC Tuesday to conduct an investment grade audit for facility improvement needs through a guaranteed energy-savings agreement, the Renew America’s Schools grant.

Jennifer Walsh

“We have put in the preliminary application with the Department of Energy grant program,” she said.

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During her presentation, Walsh said they were encouraged to apply for up to $15 million in energy-savings projects within the district. That could include installing LED lights and implementing better boiler systems.

After speaking with finance directors at other Big 9 districts, virtually all of which applied for the grant, she learned they were discouraged from continuing the application work and one district was encouraged to apply for up to $1 million, but she said the feedback she received from the Department of Energy was encouraging.

“The qualifications were really quite strict,” she said, adding qualifications included location and the free-and-reduced population.”

So Walsh is moving on to the second phase of the application process, due April 21. She did not know when the district would learn if they would be awarded anything.

The grant, which required all applicants to work with a facility management company on applications, has a 5% match, meaning it would fund 95% of project costs.

During the board meeting, board members also approved a revised 2022-23 budget.

“We don’t have very material changes,” Walsh said to the board.

Among the changes to the general fund revenue, federal aid increased by over $144,800. The district’s insurance recovery revenue went up almost $290,000, while interest earnings increased $30,000. In total, the general fund revenue budget increased by almost $899,000.

General fund expenses increased by $556,000. The revised 2022-23 projected fund balance is now almost 12.5%. By comparison, the preliminary projected fun balance was just over 12%. Last year’s fund balance was 13%.

In other action:

  • The board approved 12 policy changes after Kathy Niebuhr, executive director of administrative expenses, presented them.

“Most of these are updates to state statutes or Department of Administration advisory opinions and aligning statute language,” she said at the beginning of her presentation.

Among the significant updates, Policy 205, which addresses open and closed meetings, has been updated to include more current language in addressing the use of social media by public bodies. The policy was also updated to address the use of meetings using interactive technology.

A change to Policy 504, relating to student dress and appearance, the word “hat” was updated to “headgear” and included hats and head coverings.

  • Board members passed a proposed spring break trip through France next year that would take students from Paris to Brittany to Normandy. The presentation was given by Peter Sunnarborg, a French teacher at the high school.

The six-night trip would cost over $3,100 for student travelers and over $3,500 for adults. Sunnarborg admitted it was an expensive trip that wouldn’t be accessible for every student. He hoped that by planning for the trip this far in advance, students would have time to save enough money for the trip.

  • The district spent about $3.58 million in the month, with almost $2.42 million going towards the general fund. It also accepted $2,980 in donations, with $1,000 coming from Union Center Charitable Gambling Inc.
  • Under consent items, the board hired Jessica Flatness, Kasey Roskos, Sarah Enser, Kirstin Hughes, Darla DeBoer, Lisa Reuter, Kimberly Larson, Justin Holmes and Kendal Habana for a variety or foles. They also agreed to leaves of absence for Jeff Jenson, Teresa Howland, Lisa Myran, Sheila Riebe, Kendra Ward, Raya Peterson and Brittany Olson. They accepted resignations for Shayanne Sailor, Gabriel Twaddle, Stay Shaunce and Margaret Jones and retirements for Lisa Dugger and Kathleen Niebuhr.

The next board meeting is 5 p.m. Monday.