ROGERSVILLE — When Hawkins County Schools approved the solar panel installation project in 2012, the plan was to use the new revenue to help offset expenses that the individual schools pay for themselves.
That plan came to fruition Thursday evening when the Board of Education voted to give $2,000 each to the 19 schools within the system, including the Pathways Alternative School.
Technically, those funds will be drawn from the school system’s undesignated fund balance, although the spirit of the board’s vote Thursday was for the solar panel revenue to be used.
There are 20 locations within the Hawkins County school system where solar panels have been installed and are generating electricity. That electricity is being sold back to either the Holston Electric Cooperative, or in the case of Clinch School, the Powell Valley Electric Cooperative.
The school system’s solar panels generate $43,750 annually, which is a fixed amount and won’t fluctuate during the 20-year life of the contract.
The panels have been up and running for a little more than a year, and some were up earlier than others, so the actual total revenue that has been generated as of Thursday’s BOE meeting was $51,158.
Thus far, that revenue has been deposited under a line item identified as “miscellaneous refunds” within the general revenue section of the school system’s budget.
But the BOE also agreed Thursday that beginning with the 2014-15 fiscal year budget, there will be a specific line item for solar panel revenue.
County officials, both on the BOE and County Commission, have been asking for months where they can find evidence in the budget that the solar panel revenue actually exists.
The creation of the new line item will hopefully quell those concerns.
Board member Debbie Shedden made the motion Thursday to give each school a one-time $2,000 bonus for this fiscal year.
“When our board began implementing the energy savings program into our schools, the goal was not only to save much needed money for our school system and to teach our students about the importance of energy conservation for their future, but was also to share the energy savings with each of our schools as a reward for their diligent efforts,” Shedden said. “There’s been some adjustments along the way, but I feel like, and I think the board would agree, that we’ve accomplished a lot in our energy program.”
She also said the board needs to discuss how future solar panel revenue will be divided.
“I would ask, and I’m sure the board would agree, that they use the money wisely and discretionary in their spending” Shedden added. “I would also like to ask that as we go into budget talks this year, that we designate a line item for revenue from our energy programs and also maybe look at giving back (to individual schools) in the form of a per-pupil expenditure.”
Of the school system’s 20 solar panel sites, the biggest is at Church Hill Intermediate, which is a 200-Kw site and generates $7,000 annually.
There are two 100-Kw sites, Bulls Gap School and Clinch School, that generate $3,500 annually.
The other 17 locations are 50 Kw and generate $1,750 each.