Practically Speaking

Kyle and her husband moved to Brookfield in 1986. She became active in local politics and started blogging in 2004. Her focus is primarily on local issues but often includes state and national topics, too. Kyle looks at things from the taxpayers' perspective in a creative, yet down to earth way, addressing them from a practical point of view.

You don't miss what you never had: Pilgrim Park School Air Conditioning, UPDATE

Elmbrook, Energy, Going Green, President Obama, TAXES

We are told Elmbrook's Pilgrim Park Middle School is in need of a new heating system. The board has been discussing this replacement for about a year. Bids are starting to come in now. The big question is: do we add air conditioning or not to the new system? They might decide that question tomorrow at the March 24th board meeting.


Installing air conditioning is expensive in an institutional setting. To prevent sweating or condensation on the supply lines requires insulating the cold supply piping. The insulation is needed to prevent mold from growing inside the walls. Air conditioning also adds more operation costs, both in water use and electricity consumption.


President Obama is adamant about adding a Cap and Trade tax system to our energy industry. That means if your present electricity supply comes from coal fired power plants (the type that produce more CO2), these power plants  must pay a carbon tax or purchase a carbon credit from a nuclear power plant that does produce green power. These credit costs or taxes will be passed onto the consumer. That is US! Wisconsin's power plants are mostly coal fired, non-green, carbon producer types; Illinois has more green or nuclear powered plants. So Wisconsin consumers will be paying carbon credit taxes to Illinois' nuclear power plants! Bottom line, we pay more for our electricity.


It is estimated that Cap and Trade will add between $1,500 to $3,000 a year to a residential user's costs. Some experts speculate it could be more. Imagine the expense to an institutional user such as a school system? According to Elmbrook's 2008-09 budget figures, Pilgrim Park's proposed electric estimate was $60,103 for the year. I'm thinking that adding a Cap and Trade "tax" might result in an additional $40,000 to $60,000 to that budget figure for present usage.


Do we really want to increase Elmbrook's electricity consumption by adding air conditioning? 


Remember, the Elmbrook School District is looking for places to save $1.5 - $2 million dollars a year. Some saving ideas mentioned were to increase class sizes, close a school, add back 4K, etc.


Last summer, board member Gary Jones suggested that if the district was looking for places to save money, they might consider NOT adding air conditioning to the High Schools. I don't think that statement was prompted by Cap and Trade but just the cost of installing and running air conditioning with the typical electric rate increases. (Add Cap and Trade taxes to those yearly rate increases and air conditioning is really a budget buster.)  Here are my notes on what Gary Jones spoke about at that board meeting--my emphasis:

At some point, I'm going to recommend we not even think about putting in air conditioning in these buildings (high schools). I know we said we would, I think it would be easier to renege on that promise now and say we're not going to be able to afford to run it, even if we put it in there. We're not going to have the money to turn that air conditioning on once we've got it. I think we need to think about that and make that decision now before we spend $2 million.

(Meg said something about how they discussed that during the facility schematic planning stage, then Gary spoke again.)

I'm willing to suggest that I'm willing to lose, and I suspect I will...I won't ever say I told you so when 2 years from now we can't turn them on because we can't afford the utility rates. Dave Ross mentioned doubling gas prices for next winter. He didn't mention electricity rates doubling, but why wouldn't they? 

I think Gary Jones is right, and his cost concerns were before the added possible expense of Cap and Trade taxes.


In your family's budget, if you are looking at your spending and need to make $1,500 to $2,000 in cuts, is it wise to take on another new expense? Or, do you keep costs down by trying to be as efficient as possible within your present expenditures?


I try to stick within my present budget footprint: No free puppies, no free installation of Cable or Satellite TV, no new magazine subscriptions, no book of the month club, etc. All of these items might be nice, but they all require additional spending to maintain. Since I did not have them before, I reason I won't miss them too much by not considering them now.


Yes, we do have air conditioning at home, but we are using it less and less because of our high WE Energies bills. The operating costs go up every year, even though we have reduced consumption. (We now save our air conditioning use for those unbearable, sultry, summer days of July and August.)


If you had the choice of having your Elmbrook student have a larger class size to save money or endure a few warm days of school at the beginning or end of the school year, wouldn't the few days of unpleasantness be better than a year of crowding? Besides, if a classroom is particularly warm, adding exhaust fans, ceiling fans, or windows that open well are lower cost alternatives to energy hogging air conditioning. (Scheduling fewer early release days during the year would shorten up the school schedule, thus avoiding warmer temperature days of late August and early June.)


Let the board know what your thoughts are on air conditioning in general and Pilgrim Park in specific. You can contact the entire board by emailing to


UPDATE: I emailed Cindy Frey, Elmbrook's Communications Assistant, " I understand that no action was taken on Pilgrim regarding HVAC replacement. Do you have any details from the minutes?" She replied, " Yes, there was no action taken on Pilgrim regarding HVAC replacement. The board has requested additional information." So for the time being, the measure is on hold.   



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Brookfield7, Fairly Conservative, BetterBrookfield, Vicki McKenna, Jay Weber, The Right View Wisconsin, Randy Melchert, Mark Levin, The Heritage Foundation, CNS News

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