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Wisconsin school districts spend millions on energy efficiency projects

Kohler Elementary School Building
Kohler Elementary School Building

UNDATED (WSAU)  Wisconsin schools are taking advantage of a three-year-old state law to catch up on maintenance and become more energy-efficient. According to Gannett newspapers, school districts throughout the state have borrowed $134-and-a-half million on energy projects since 2009, without having to get voters’ approval. The law lets school districts exceed their state revenue limits without referendums, in order to borrow for energy projects.

Last year the law was expanded to let schools spread their payments over a number of years instead of just one. And that spurred a big increase in borrowing – from about $9-million in fiscal 2011 to $93-million this year, with around 30 projects throughout the state each year.

The Racine School District has borrowed the most since the revenue cap exemption was adopted – around $42-million, covering almost half its deferred maintenance. Oshkosh officials said they handled about one-fifth of their maintenance needs with a $21-million project.

Dale Knapp of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance says more school districts will take advantage of the exemption when they see what it can do. And Knapp says you can expect more scrutiny from the public over how the money’s spent.