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Schools Getting Greener

Energy saving measures discussed at school board meeting

The Farmingdale school district will be going green, in the tradition of the uniforms of its teams, the Dalers.

At the latest school board meeting, specific details were given about the Energy Performance Contract that the district is working on with Johnson Controls to make the school district much more energy efficient.

“There is no cost to the taxpayer,” Assistant Superintendent for Business Paul Defendini told the board and those who attended the meeting. “Because of the savings we receive from the reduction in utility bills, the project pays for itself.”

Defendini said that the project would cost about $16,000,000, which the district will be borrowing. However, the district will save $875,490 yearly in utility costs, which translates to the district saving more than the yearly payments on the project. The contractor for the project, Johnson Controls, has guaranteed the savings or the company will pay the difference in any year that the savings are not realized.

“The beauty is they pay for themselves,” said a representative of Johnson Controls about the energy saving projects. He also added that Johnson Controls has done such work in multiple districts in both Nassau and Suffolk counties.

The largest portion of the savings will come from lighting and lighting control replacements. About 16,000 fixtures will be addressed. Older lighting fixtures will be replaced and be retrofitted with new lighting fixtures. 

In addition, 765 occupancy sensors will be added. These turn lights on when the sensors detect the presence of someone in the room. In addition to decreasing the large amount of wasted energy, which typically occurs with traditional light switches that are often left on when rooms are not in use, the sensors also act as a security measure. By turning on lights that are supposed to be empty, the system alerts about the possibility of intruders. The representative from Johnson Controls also said that the light is “a brighter more natural light.”

The other big driver of energy savings will be an upgrade to the energy management system. The current pneumatic system will be replaced with a new system that provides direct digital control. A supervisor will be able to control temperatures over a web-enabled system,

As an example, an administrator can set the auditorium for a specific temperature when it is being used, and for another temperature when it is unoccupied, and this can be done over the web.

In addition, Defendini said that much of the project would be scoped to include curriculum projects. Students will be able to measure the savings being achieved, while their schools carbon footprint is being reduced.

Acceding to Defendini, the project does not need voter approval, as there is not net cost to the district. However, the New York State Education Department must approve the project.

In addition to the capita project, Defendini revisited the overall budget. The increase in the tax levy will be 2.96 percent from last year’s budget, which is equal to New York State’s Property Tax Cap limit, and an overall increase in the budget of 1.97 percent from the previous year. Defendini said that the budget calls for no teacher layoffs and no program changes.

Since the budget does not exceed the tax cap, only a simple majority of voters will be needed to approve it when it is presented for voter approval in May. Defendini also presented figures for the contingency budget, should Farmingdale voters defeat the budget proposal. The contingency budget reduces programs by about $3.3 million, and could lead to increased elementary class sizes, reduced secondary electives and other program reductions.