The Orangeburg County School District Board of Trustees voted Tuesday to borrow and spend about $13.177 million toward the purchase of equipment to upgrade the energy performance of schools.

The $13.177 million is the first part of the district’s previously approved plans to borrow and spend $39.9 million for energy upgrades throughout the school district.

Trustees voted 8-1 to spend the money. Trustee Dr. William O’Quinn was in opposition.

Trustees in February voted to proceed in negotiations with Alpharetta, Georgia-based ABM Buildings Solutions LLC to do the work.

As part of the guaranteed-price contract with ABM, there is an April 30 deadline for equipment purchase.

“We will not be able to complete that permanent financing at that point in time,” Compass Financial Advisors Bob Damron told trustees during their regularly scheduled meeting. “We wanted interim financing on that one small component. It will be short term in nature. It will be paid off in full when we complete the permanent financing.”

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Damron said the reason for the April 30 deadline is to be able to “lock in that price” for the equipment needed for the energy upgrades.

“Inflation in the construction industry is unbelievable at this point in time,” Damron said. “If you get a price yesterday, it is probably not good today.”

“Estimates by the contractors is that if we don’t do that, the cost of the equipment could be as high as 10 to 15% more,” Damron said.

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He said this would be equivalent to a cost to the school district of about $1.3 million more.

In order to pay the $13.177 million, the district approved a $10 million bond-anticipation note and is using about $3.1 million from the district’s capital projects fund.

Damron said the money in the capital projects fund would be replaced as soon as the district completes the permanent financing by the end of June.

School officials say the performance energy upgrade project for the district will not require a tax increase. The work is to be done from August 2022 through August 2025.

The borrowing does not impact the district’s 8% debt capacity, so it doesn’t affect its debt limit, Damron said.

The contract will provide the district with new HVAC equipment, new LED lights, water-conservation equipment, energy-control systems, a one-year maintenance plan and the ability to treat air with bipolar ionization.

Some trustees have expressed concerns about approving an energy-performance contract while the district is developing a facilities-improvement plan.

Officials say the upgrades would be done to schools that are not proposed for closure under the district’s facilities plan.

The contract can be changed should the district’s improvement plan change, according to school officials.

School officials say the bond would be paid through energy and operations savings.

Last year, ABM conducted an energy performance assessment of the district’s electric, light and water systems.

ABM officials say 91% of the district’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning equipment is past its useful life.

In other matters, trustees voted 5-3 to approve a property transaction and to give Superintendent Shawn Foster the authority to execute and complete the transaction. Voting for the transaction were R.L. “Poppy” Brown, Vice Chair Dr. Debora Brunson, Peggy James-Tyler, Idella Carson and Betty Pelzer. Voting against were Mary Ulmer, Dr. Sylvia Bruce-Stephens and Dr. William O’Quinn.

Chair Ruby Edwards abstained from voting.

Following the meeting, the district declined to provide details about the transaction except to note that in the future, the district will provide details of the “land-swap agreement with the county that will allow a cost-neutral solution to an anticipated proposed need.”

Orangeburg County Council last month gave third and final reading to giving the school district 95 acres of property on Red Bank Road near U.S. Highway 601.

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In exchange, the school district is giving the county property near Interstate 95 on U.S. Highway 15 – the site of the former Dantzler Middle School.

While it is not certain that the OCSD’s vote Tuesday was related to the same transaction, it is the only land swap publicly discussed by the county recently.

Trustees voted to approve a position of coordinator for recruitment and retention.

There was no public discussion about the matter at the meeting.

Currently, a position in the district’s Human Resources Division titled “teacher effectiveness coordinator” is filled by Dyisha Taylor. Taylor will serve next year as the district’s director of certified personnel. 

The teacher-effectiveness-coordinator role is being retitled as the coordinator for recruitment and retention, with duties to encompass all aspects of hiring and maintaining teachers and support staff, according to the school district. $1 for the first 26 weeks

“With a growing teacher shortage throughout the state and nation, having a dedicated staff member responsible for recruitment and retention will allow our district to further emphasize this critical need,” the district said in a statement following the meeting. “This position will be compensated on the coordinator scale.

In other business:

  • Trustees unanimously approved the 2022-23 course catalog. The catalog is on the district’s and each individual school’s webpage.
  • Trustees unanimously approved the 2022-23 local board-approved courses.
  • The district named Hunter-Kinard-Tyler Middle/ High School business education teacher Lillian Watson Rookie Teacher of the Month for March.
  • The district recognized Mellichamp Elementary School teacher Jessica McCormick as Employee of the Month.
  • The district recognized several students from Lake Marion Technology Center and Hunter-Kinard-Tyler High School for recent awards and achievements received.
  • Foster commended the Orangeburg Rotary Club afternoon group for its Happy Feet program. The club gave out 101 shoes to district elementary school students April 8. Hibbett Sports also fed the students pizza.
  • Trustees were informed that a recommendation on a construction manager to help oversee any building projects the district undertakes as part of its district-wide facilities plan will be brought to the board during its May 10 meeting.

The district plans to enter the contract under a construction manager at risk (CMAR) process. 

The CMAR would provide architectural and engineering services to the district and be contractually bound to deliver the project at the agreed-upon cost.

  • Trustees unanimously approved the district being host for a foreign exchange student from Spain in the coming school year. 

The student is a rising 10th-grader and will attend Edisto High School.

  • The next board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 10. The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. and will be held at the OCSD headquarters at 102 Founders Court. The meetings are livestreamed on the district’s website

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