A new proposal to fund energy efficiency projects at schools across the state is all about smart spending, according to District 51B Rep. Laurie Halverson (DFL), who supports the measure.
Halverson is listed as a co-author of HF 320, a bill that would establish a revolving loan program using state bonding proceeds. Money in that account would then be used to fund certain capital improvement projects that would reduce schools' greenhouse gas emissions and improve indoor air quality. The bill was introduced on Feb. 4 by District 12A Rep. Jay McNamar (DFL), and was referred to the House Energy Policy Committee.
Halverson is unsure whether any Eagan schools are in need of energy and air quality improvements, but said that the investments made statewide through this proposal would save districts and the state money over time.
“It’s a way for the state to use our money better and do some smart bonding," Halverson said. "I think investments that save the state money make good sense."
Nearly 20 legislators, Halverson included, are co-sponsoring the bill. Under the proposed legislation, school districts that want to use state money to help fund capital improvements would have to first apply for a loan. As part of the application process, school officials would be required to submit information about the total estimated cost of the proposed improvements, the proposed sources of funding for the project and a description of the proposed energy improvements. School districts would also be required to hire an independent contractor to conduct an energy audit to estimate cost savings from the facility improvements.
The loan any successful applicant receives from the state could not be worth more than half the total project cost, according to the proposed legislation. The commissioner of commerce would be responsible for administering the loan program.
Halverson bills the measure could spur economic growth by creating local construction jobs. The measure could also reduce districts' reliance on property tax levies, she added.
"It has a bigger impact to the economy than just creating more energy efficiences for the schools," Halverson said.