The Culver Unified School District Board of Education unanimously approved the submission of an application to the California Solar Initiative, along with a $20,000 application fee, for a rebate on the upcoming installation of on school rooftops.
"It's extremely important that we put this in today," said Board Vice President Karlo Silbiger, adding that changes can still be made to the project even after the rebate is approved.
Because the fee is non-refundable, district staff members have been reluctant to submit the application for the rebate without having the project formally approved. However, because the rebate funds are only available on a first-come, first-served basis, it was decided to risk the project falling through rather than miss out on a rebate of over $1 million that can be placed in the general fund.
"Even if we spend $3 million and take in $1 million," Silbiger said, it makes the rebate worth it because the money to pay for the panels would come from funds that can only be used for building projects and can't be used for supplies and salaries, whereas the rebate funds can be. "That's four more teachers a year, eight more aides."
The solar panel project is one of four projects currently being considered and planned to use the special capital project funds. The other projects include making and compliant with American Disabilities Act rules by installing elevators at the schools, improvements to the at the high school and improvements and repairs to the high school athletic fields, including increased parking, lighting and artificial turf installed on the playing fields.
The projects are generating significant comments from community members who have expressed concern that there hasn't been enough communication from the district about what the costs are, nor have there been any detailed breakdowns.
"There has been too little community outreach," said Justin Decker, who lives behind the high school. "We'd like to be involved in the project."
Decker and several others from the neighborhood behind the high school spoke in turn, expressing concerns about safety, other impacts on the neighborhood and whether the field improvements are financially viable.
"Has a cost-benefit analysis been done?" asked Mark Hobbes, another homeowner behind the school. "We'd like to see it."
His neighbor, Bruce Elberts, expressed concern about property values in the area declining because of noise pollution from the fields, littering and reckless driving that could occur.
"The neighborhood wasn't designed to handle the impacts," Elberts said.
In other comments before the Board, teacher and union leader David Mielke congratulated the board for its decision to bring back the Community Budget Advisory Committee.
"At least it was a vehicle for the community to provide input to the board," Mielke said, acknowledging that the board did not always follow the past committee's suggestions. "We have such a strength of activist parents in this community."
also announced that applications for the CBAC and the two positions open on the Environmental Sustainability Committee are available at the district office and must be filed by 4 p.m. Friday, October 14.