School board to debate solar bond sale

Textbook sufficiency, state facilities bond, Bullying Prevention Month also on tap

The San Ramon Valley school board is set to discuss Tuesday how to go about selling a series of tax-credit bonds to help finance new solar projects at more than two dozen schools.

The school district received federal authorization to issue up to approximately $13.2 million in clean renewable energy bonds, according to Scott Anderson, the district's chief business officer.

Proceeds for those bond sales would be earmarked for new solar energy projects at 14 to 16 San Ramon Valley schools, expanding the district's existing solar program, according to Anderson.

The school board last month approved of issuing a request for proposals (RFP) for the new solar projects. The next step in the process comes Tuesday, when the board members will decide whether to sell the bonds in a public offering or a private placement.

District officials recommend the board support a private placement, in which bonds are sold to a single investor after a comparison of bids from similar lenders and a review of interest rates and financing terms, Anderson wrote in his staff report to the board.

"Staff believes private placement is the more suitable option for this transaction due to current investor interest, more attractive interest rates, lower costs of issuance and abbreviated transaction timeline," he said.

The district estimates construction of solar equipment at 10 elementary and four middle schools would cost almost $12.7 million. The estimates range as low as $531,511 at Bollinger Canyon Elementary to as high as $1.33 million at Windemere Ranch Middle School.

The other campuses are Bella Vista, Coyote Creek, Creekside, Green Valley, Greenbrook, Hidden Hills, John Baldwin, Live Oak and Quail Run elementary schools and Iron Horse, Los Cerros and Pine Valley middle schools. Tassajara Hills Elementary and Charlotte Wood Middle School are also included in the RFP but are lowest on the priority list and not included in the $12.7 million estimate.

As proposed, the new initiative would bring solar panels to more than half of the district's schools.

The district added solar arrays to all four comprehensive high schools, plus Diablo Vista and Gale Ranch middle schools, using funds from the sale of $25 million in qualified school construction bonds issued in 2010. District officials estimate there has been about $5.06 million in actual net savings at those schools, about $700,000 better than original projections.

The school board's open-session meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. at the district administrative complex at 699 Old Orchard Drive in Danville.

In other business

* The board will consider approving a resolution certifying that each student in kindergarten through 12th grade has been provided textbooks and basic instructional materials aligned with state standards in the subjects of mathematics, science, reading and language arts, and history and social science.

* Board members will discuss supporting the "Kindergarten through Community College Public Education Facilities Bond Act of 2016," a proposed $9 billion statewide school facilities bond initiative.

* They will also consider adopting resolutions declaring this as National Bullying Prevention Month, next week as Week of the School Administrator and Oct 18-24 as Digital Citizenship Week in the district.

* The board will hear an update about TRAFFIX, a joint venture among the district, town of Danville, city of San Ramon and Contra Costa County aimed at addressing congestion caused by school-related traffic in the area's busiest intersections.

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4 people like this
Posted by Arlene
a resident of Diablo
on Oct 6, 2015 at 8:04 am

Solar made very impressive savings at the high schools. I support solar installation at the other schools mentioned and would be willing to contribute toward their cost if I knew how and when. Solar installations not only save money but also helps the environment.

Like this comment
Posted by Robert Oxenburgh
a resident of Alamo
on Oct 6, 2015 at 3:03 pm

Arlene, nice to read your comments. Fortunately, your kind offer of funding won't be needed. The bonds will be placed privately. I understand that the interest and capital repayments will be sourced from savings on the school district's PG&E bill over the next 20 years. Usually these systems pay for themselves in a shorter time period. The Athenian School's 3 private solar pv systems are also self financing, with eventual positive contribution to annual expense budgets.

6 people like this
Posted by C. R. Mudgeon
a resident of Danville
on Oct 6, 2015 at 4:32 pm

I am hoping that Robert Oxenburgh is correct in his statement, that the bonds will be paid off solely from the savings on the PG&E bills, going forward. Some of the prior solar projects have been funded from taxpayer bonds. In that situation, taxpayer money for capital improvements is effectively "converted" to operational budget. The bonds pay for the solar projects, the taxpayer pays off the bonds. Then the PG&E bill savings are effectively "usable" for other operational expenses, such as salaries. Bond funds can't be directly used for operational expenses, but solar projects can be structured to essentially do the same thing. Which is part of the reason that school boards love solar projects.... Hopefully, this round of solar projects is being "self-financed" from the electric bill savings.

Like this comment
Posted by Martin P
a resident of Danville
on Jan 9, 2016 at 9:53 am

You're deluding yourself if you think the Taxpayers aren't on the hook for this Solar Boondoggle. The district has spent over 30 million dollars in taxpayer funded "bonds" and are trying to spend another 13 million dollars. You just fell off the Turnip truck if you think that the savings from electricity expenses is doing anything close to funding this massive debt. The district claims 66 percent of their electricity is paid for by the panels. So they spent 30 million and want to spend another 12 million and STILL are paying 33 percent of pre solar bills to PG&E. Whose brother in law at the district works for the Solar contractor? Meanwhile the ignorant taxpayer let's it happen. BTW if you feel good about going green, putting up solar panels in San Ramon helps the planet about as much as my dog peeing in the ocean raising the sea level.

Like this comment
Posted by Dave
a resident of Danville
on Jan 11, 2016 at 7:56 pm

Luddites always resist new technology

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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