Since 1986, over 557 school districts throughout Ohio have taken advantage of a very generous program, courtesy of taxpayers, that allows school districts to pay for capital improvements done to their facilities. According to the Ohio School Facilities Commission, this program has funded over 952 projects, involving over 6,089 buildings, at a cost of over $1.25 billion, while saving taxpayers over $115 million. However, this privilege is open to district schools and their buildings only, and denied to charter schools.
The program, formally known as the Ohio School Facilities Commission Energy Conservation Program or the House Bill 264 Program, enables school districts to make energy-related improvements to district buildings that in theory would generate enough energy savings to eventually pay off the improvement bond from which the capital originated from its issuance, along with the cost of financing. The cost savings over 15 years for energy, operational, and maintenance must equal or exceed the cost of implementing the measures. The program allows energy-related improvements, as opposed to merely repairs. This may seem like semantics until the discussion turns on how exactly projects are paid for.
In Ohio, tax levies are typically raised in order to fund capital projects, including improvements to school buildings. Ohio law requires that such levies must be submitted to the voters of the school district for approval. Under HB 264, however, school districts can bypass this process of accountability by invoking the desired project as a qualified, energy-related, permanent improvement.
Once could argue that HB...