Energy upgrades will be on Mont Vernon school ballot Wood pellet heat part of energy-saving plan

MONT VERNON – If there’s one thing some residents would like voters to know about the bond for Village School energy improvements, it’s that the tax impact is for one year only.

At the school district Deliberative Session on Feb. 7, several people noted that the 6 cents tax impact of the $694,700 bond that will appear on the school district ballot only holds true for 2015.

After that, the tax rate to pay for the 11-year bond ranges between 36 cents and 26 cents. Only the interest, not the principal, is paid in 2015.

From the audience, Wesley Sommer tried to amend the article to say that for the years after 2015, the tax impact would be higher, but Town Attorney Peter Phillips said that wording is not subject to amendment, and district Business Administrator Betty Shankel said the state Department of Revenue Administration advised them that the additional information would be confusing and officials can explain it at the Deliberative Session.

That’s “misleading,” said Tony Immorlica. “There are about 25 voters here versus about 900” in the community.

Wood heat

Among the energy improvements covered by the bond is a new wood pellet heating system, with oil backup, that the School Board says would save the district $23,000 a year and pay for itself in less than seven years.

The bond would also pay for new duct work, new insulation, new windows in the old part of the building and other upgrades inside and outside the school.

Public Service of New Hampshire will pay for half of $43,000 worth of electrical upgrades, and there will be a five-year payback.

The Budget Committee, however, voted against the bond.

“We recommend an action plan with more emphasis on reducing heat loss” before the district makes a decision on a new heating system, Budget Committee Chairman Brian Bunner said.

School Board members said an engineering firm did analyze the school building and identified corrective measures.

The School Board also analyzed four different heating systems – oil, wood pellet with oil backup, propane/oil and propane only – before deciding on wood pellet.

Board members also visited the Mascenic School District to study a wood pellet operation, which they described as clean and almost completely silent, producing no more than an “attache-case” full of ash once a week.

“It is a very sophisticated system,” said board member John Quinlan.

Amendment fails

Tom McKinney tried to amend the energy bond to cut it roughly in half.

“Does that make sense?” Kathryn Marchocki asked, and Chairwoman Kim Roberge said $300,000 would not be enough to accomplish the desired energy savings and take advantage of rebates and low bond rates. Board member Bruce Schmidt noted that the board already cut $1 million worth of recommended improvements from the bond.

The amendment failed.

The only other major article is a $4.3 million operating budget for the Village School, which is $340,000 less than the current year’s spending plan.

The district has been operating under a default budget for several years, and Roberge said that is why many small building improvements have not been done.

In case the energy bond does not pass, there is Article 4, to add $65,000 to a maintenance fund. The money will pay for oil tank and line upgrades required by the state.

The Budget Committee endorses the operating budget and the addition to the maintenance fund.

The bond had originally been $720,300, but after hearing comments at the public hearing in January, the School Board reduced the amount by about $25,000, Roberge said.

Election day is Tuesday, March 11, and Mont Vernon residents vote from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. at Village School.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at kcleveland@cabinet.com or 673-3100, ext. 304.